The “found footage” movie is a concept that has become so played out that anything new seems like a pastiche. Taped, which is likely to be grouped in the same subgenre, attempts to show that the prevailing use of digital technology can get you killed if you’re not careful. The film’s concept is not all that innovative but it is plausible in its depiction of seeing a husband and wife in a foreign land becoming wrapped up in an extraordinary situation.
A Dutch thriller set in Buenos Aires, Taped involves a couple on the rocks witnessing a murder committed by a corrupt law enforcement agent. That’s bad. What’s worse is getting it on tape, or in this case on a digital video camera. But “tape” sounds so much better than “Peek-a-boo! I Got You on Memory Card!”
Our protagonist couple, Johan (Barry Atsma) and Saar (Susan Visser), is on an Argentinean getaway to help rejuvenate their failing marriage. At the onset fragments of their video travelogue are shown, including the Casa Rosada of Buenos Aires’ federal district. The montage tries to establish these two characters and make the viewing audience connect with Johan and Saar. The further the footage progresses we see why their marriage is in shambles, as allusions to infidelity come to fruition. While this seems like something that you wouldn’t want as a keepsake memory, the documentation is at the behest of their daughter Rose. This fragmented sequence is rough viewing, and while it isn’t all that exciting to watch, it is necessary for what occurs the following hour.
Seeing that their marriage is irreconcilable beyond repair, Johan and Saar decide to fly back home to The Netherlands…at night. First mistake. It’s a flaw that doesn’t make much sense. Why not cool off, go to bed and fly out in the morning? They are angry and who knows if their temperament would flare up in the airport before departure. For story purposes this flaw makes sense as we have the couple in a dark environment in an unfamiliar location. It is in that moment that things go from bad to worse, and the tension never lets up until the ending.
Fearing for one’s life is a tough predicament to be in, and it’s always interesting to see how people react. You have those who take action, remain pacifists, or flee the situation. Johan and Saar decide to flee, but to go where? Before running Johan and Saar lose possession of their luggage, including passports and boarding passes.
Having firmly established Buenos Aires as the setting with the video travelogue, it comes as a disappointment that the beautiful backdrop is unrecognizable during the nighttime chase. Instead, all we get are some darkly lit alleyways, a hospital and an abandoned warehouse. Switching from the documented images in the opening montage to a third-person perspective, this also sees the addition of wobbly images – the result of the camera operator running with the actors, following them through the streets of Buenos Aires.
Neither the story nor its execution is memorable, but the thriller does have its moments. It must, because Columbia Pictures saw something in its depiction of humans in peril to warrant an American remake. One of the best is a tracking shot involving a stedicam operator following the couple as they board a bus making their first of many narrow escapes.
As the chase continues logic seems to get thrown out the window, as the visit to a hospital illustrates. Another strike is the lack of chemistry between actors Atsma and Visser. It has an unnatural feeling and their marriage disputes dissolve into a bunch of stiffly written monologues on love and adultery. And don’t get me started on Saar’s emotional hang-ups during the climax.
Still, even with these faults, Taped is a thriller that works in spurts. The film also offers quality advice on saving a marriage. Though it will be up to the couple to decide: To leave the digital camera at home the next time we go on vacation, or do what Johan and Saar do and capture a gun crime on camera? Each option just may decide your marriage or your life.
Director: Diederik Van Rooijen
Writer: Marnie Blok (scenario), Diederik Van Rooijen
Notable Cast: Barry Atsma, Susan Visser, and Dario Levy