The Betrayed

Director: Amanda Gusack
Melissa George, Christian Campbell, Alice Krige

Deep down, I realize that I have a life that would be considered very enviable by most people on this planet of ours. I have a job, a roof over my head, and enough funds to cover regular expenses of mine such as food. But even with all of this comfort around me, I have to confess that I am kind of a worrier. It seems that practically every day I spend a few minutes worrying about something bad that might happen to me and shatter my feelings of comfort. Some of my fears are kind of outlandish enough that soon common sense fills my head to a big enough point that I realize that what I am worrying about is kind of ridiculous - like worrying that a gigantic asteroid will hit the Earth and create worldwide chaos. (Or maybe I should worry - I just did some quick research and found out some astronomers say an asteroid might hit our planet in the next twenty or so years.) But most of the stuff that I worry about are things that are more likely to happen. What if I were to lose my job? What if my apartment building was struck by a fire? What if my computer were stolen? Well, when I think about such things that could happen, I try to look back at all my years of experience with things, and I find that I can quickly come up with a plan of action to take. If I were to lose my job, I could think back to the other times that I was without work, and what I did to secure the next job that I had. If my apartment building was struck by fire, I know that I could look for another place to live - I have moved from one place to another several times in my past. And if my computer were stolen, I could quickly get a new computer and restore my important files from the various backups that I use, meaning there shouldn't be any long pause between the next update of The Unknown Movies.

But occasionally in my mind, I start to think about possible problems that are between the level of the fear of asteroids crashing on the earth and the level of fear that my computer may be stolen. Stuff that is kind of unlikely to happen, but does have some chance of happening, since it's happened to a number of people before in the past. This stuff inevitably poses a "what if" question that I don't know how to answer in a way to calm my fears. For example, getting a disease such as cancer. I honestly don't know what I would do if I received that diagnosis. Another tough to imagine "what if" situation, and the one I really want to talk about, is getting kidnapped. I also don't know how I would react to being kidnapped, one reason being that there are so many ways that one can be kidnapped and subsequently be held captive. More ways than there are cancers and methods of treatment. Recently I did some research on the Internet about what one should do if kidnapped, and what I read didn't exactly enlighten or cheer me up. One web site I read said that the first thing one should do is try to avoid being kidnapped in the first place. Well, duh. But I think that if a kidnapper is really determined, he will think of a way to get you no matter what precautions you might take. You can't exactly argue when you have a loaded gun pointed at your head. Also, I think that if the kidnapper is really determined to snatch you off the street, he will have managed to figure out a foolproof way to keep you captive until he gets what he wants. Escape from a kidnapper more often than not seems to belong to fictional treatments of kidnappings.

And on the subject of fictional treatments of kidnappings, I want to mention my thoughts on movie kidnappings. For the most part, I find movie kidnappings to be highly unbelievable. Certainly, they can all the same be entertaining, such as the movie Executive Target, which had the The Betrayedoutlandish premise of the U.S. President being kidnapped. But even in those cases, there is something in the back of my mind telling me that it's unbelievable. It's probably the same voice in my mind that craves some plausible information I can store should I be kidnapped, information I could use to my advantage. Anyway, it's worse with most kidnapping movies, because I typically find the kidnap victim or the kidnapper - or both - to be really stupid. The crisis would end quickly one way or another if at least one participant used his or her brains. An opposite problem I sometimes find is that the kidnap scheme seems overly complex, something that can be found in the Saw movie series - would anyone really go to all that trouble? Anyway, when I found a copy of the kidnapping drama The Betrayed, I didn't know if the advertised kidnapping would be unbelievably complex or really dumb. I guess I was praying for something in the middle. Here's the plot synopsis from the back of the DVD box: "After a near fatal car accident, Jamie Taylor (George, 30 Days Of Night) wakes up to find herself imprisoned in an abandoned warehouse. The nightmare worsens when she learns from her mysterious captor (Oded Fehr, The Mummy) that her husband (Campbell, Casino Jack) has stolen $40 million from a crime syndicate. Forced to listen to recordings of her family's private conversations, Jamie must find clues about the location of the stolen money - or her six year-old son will be killed. Her mind racing, and with time running out, Jamie fights to unravel the mystery and save her son."

As I said, outlandish kidnapping situations in movies can be entertaining as long as they are executed well - besides Executive Target, I enjoyed the first Saw movie. But I admit that more often than not I prefer to watch a kidnapping movie that's more realistic in nature. I like to imagine myself in the kidnap victim's position - sometimes also the kidnapper's position - and ask myself, "What would I do if I were in that situation to get to my goal?" If the characters show brains, I usually find myself enjoying the end results. As it turns out, the direction The Betrayed goes towards is one that has a generally believable tone, starting with how the situation is set up at the beginning of the movie. It's true that the bad guys' plan to capture Jamie and her son alive and unharmed via a car crash does somewhat strain credibility when you think about it, but I gave it a pass because we don't actually see the car crash; the movie starts with a police officer finding the damaged and empty car at the side of the road. In the next scene, when Jamie wakes up in her warehouse prison, over the next few minutes we see that the bad guys have made a good but not outlandish arrangement to keep Jamie confined in her small room - it's an unfurnished room fitted with unbreakable glass in the windows, and the bad guys have removed Jamie's shoes and jewellery to make sure she can't use them as tools. I will say that the preparedness of the bad guys does somewhat strain credibility again when they just happened to have morphine on hand to deal with Jamie's broken ribs, especially since these broken ribs are subsequently forgotten about by everyone - including Jamie - for the rest of the movie. But aside from those two things, the setup for The Betrayed is well done, and sets the story on the right direction.

The movie is also smart enough to realize that Jamie, with her injuries and morphine shot, would not be able to function well right away after waking up, so the bad guys do give her some time to recover. Once she does recover, the movie continues to feel plausible by how it gets its two main players to act next. Jamie's captor Alek (played by Fehr) gets right down to business and asks the primary question he really needs the answer to. Jamie, of course, doesn't know the answer, at least at first, which leads to a serious struggle between the two that lasts for most of the remaining portion of the movie. This struggle could have gone the easy and predictable route, but fortunately it's handled somewhat differently than usual. Alek is not a snarling and completely brutal figure. In most of his interrogations with Jamie, he acts relatively subdued and calm, and shows a good amount of intelligence. He seems to know that brutal acts won't get him to his main goal. However, he is not afraid to be ruthless when the situation warrants it, and these rare times when his killer instinct comes out it packs more of a punch than if it had come from a madman. Jamie is much different than Alek, of course, though she too is believable for the most part. She is not a superwoman, though clearly she is trying simultaneously to come up with an answer for Alek as well as finding a way for her and her son to escape. The ideas that she comes up along the way for both of these challenges are pretty plausible, ideas that one of us in the audience could possibly come up with if we were in her situation.

Although other characters pop up along the way, the movie is almost completely Alek and Jamie's show, and it's a credit to Melissa George and Oded Fehr that they act as smart and colorful as their roles are written. Further credit has to go to writer and director Amanda Gusack for also making the movie captivating despite the big handicap she gave herself, that handicap being that aside from a few brief flashbacks and equally brief jumps to other locations, she sets almost all of the movie in one small room. That would hamper most filmmakers, but Gusack manages to keep things interesting by different techniques. The cold and rusty surroundings keep up an atmosphere of gloom and doom. Sometimes she brings in other characters in the room, all of whom have their own agendas and goals, adding additional conflict to the mix. Another time she brings in a laptop computer for a particularly nail-biting sequence. In fact, there is more action and suspense in this small room than you might expect. There's other good direction to be found elsewhere in The Betrayed, like how Gusack changes the lighting or camera angles to give a new scene a perspective that wasn't found in an earlier scene. But I think the main reason why the movie works as well as it does is that it does not treat its audience as stupid almost all of the time; besides those credibility straining moments mentioned earlier, there are a couple of clues uncovered along the way that are very obvious to the audience long before the heroine figures it out. But for the most part, The Betrayed is very well done. And this was only Gusack's second feature film, after an effort three years earlier called In Memorium. I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for that movie.

(Posted October 2, 2018)

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See also: Executive Target, Hostile Takeover, The Muthers