Directed by Diederik Van Rooijen
The “cat-and-mouse” sub-gene of thrillers does not need the benefit of sweeping character arcs or a strong emotional subplot to be entertaining. Taped, a simple little tale from director Diederik Van Rooijen, opts for a similar approach, getting any and all character development out of the way in the first twenty minutes before launching into an explosive thriller that sees a young couple fleeing a murderous police officer through the streets of Argentina.
Taped follows Johan (Barry Atsma) and Sara (Susan Visser), a couple vacationing at an isolated home in picturesque Argentina, chronicling their adventures on a small handi-cam. Their relationship is clearly on the rocks, and after the first evening confessions of infidelity prompt a quick end to their vacation. As they wait at the bus station, Sara films Johan, attempting to put some of their troubles into perspective. Her attention, however, is diverted by the execution of a man by a local police officer, the act of which is caught on tape. Unfortunately, the cop sees them filming, setting into motion a storyline that sees the couple fleeing for their lives through the streets of Argentina.
Taped starts off slow, preferring to investigate the relationship turmoil between Johan and Sara through a mix of first-person perspective and traditional narrative. It’s necessary, giving enough emotional depth to the characters that you actually care about them as they spend an hour and a half trying to evade a sadistic cop and his partner. Once this happens, there is little time to delve into their relationship, with Van Rooijen focusing entirely on the chase. It’s never boring, and Van Rooijen’s tight method of filmmaking forgoes a traditional setup in favor of a loose hand-held style that adds a heightened sense of realism to the couple’s plight.
As the situation becomes increasingly dire for Johan and Sara, common sense tends to disappear, with the duo making a number of decision that are, given their precarious situation and the utter hell they’ve been through, absolutely mind-boggling in their shortsightedness. While it’s one thing to say how these people should be acting in such a situation, it’s another to disregard common sense simply to serve the story, something Taped does, particularly toward the end, with enough frequency to remove you from the incredibly real situation they’re in.
Through it all, however, Van Rooijen’s tight direction and slow, steady build-up of suspense and action, as well as Atsma and Visser’s strong performances, are enough to overshadow these minor issues, resulting in an incredibly tense and exciting thriller that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do.
4 out of 5