Analysing revenge/thriller trailers:’Taken’…

Posted: August 5, 2010 in Media

I’ve chosen to analyse this trailer because although I’ve never seen it (although I’ve wanted to for some time), I’m pretty sure from the trailer that it has strong revenge themes, which will help me in my research. And above, there is a poster for the crime/revenge film, starring Liam Neeson…..

And the trailer’s below:


I’d say you could probably put the film, judging from the trailer, into these genres: thriller/revenge/action/crime. Why thriller? Well the trailer makes the film out to be very tense and dark through the fact young girls have been kidnapped and we do not know what horrible things have happened to them, though it is insinuated through various shots and dialogue. The film also looks like it will have a lot of twists and turns and shock us- like we aren’t really sure of what’s going on or that we’ll be shocked as to how far the hero goes to get his daughter and her friend back… which is what most thrillers are supposed to do. Thrill us. Revenge is obvious- a young daughter is kidnapped along with her friend and horrible things could be happening to her. The father hears the whole thing happening, is mortified and swears vengeance on those responsible. Also, the main character is an ex-spy. A trained man who knows how to kill people professionally and also cause them great pain AND get away with it aswell. So we know he won’t hesitate in getting his vengeance. (I’ve actually found this quite common…like in ‘Law Abiding Citizen’ I think the protagonist was an ex spy??…and ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ Richard was a soldier who briefly come back from the army…’Gladiator’ Maximus was an ex General of the army and therefore knew how to kill people…’Leon’ was a professional killer!…etc etc the list goes on!!!!Basically I think it’d be good to note, now I’ve gone of track, that protagonists in revenge films are the BEST at what they do…which usually involves killing people). So erm…yes action is implied through the fact we can see various flashes of violent scenes such as fighting sequences, guns being fired etc which tells us the film will be full of action and probably violent as the protagonist gets his vengeance. Crime is insinuated strongly- the whole plot of the film is based around a crime: kidnapping. Daughter is kidnapped, so father commits many crimes (probably murder, GBH and other crimes also) to get his own back on the criminals and save her.  


The trailer seems to follow the basic narrative structure for a film, though it does leave out the ending and answers to whether a new equilibrium will be established, like most trailers do (because if we see this part there’s no point in watching the actual film and the trailer will have not done it’s job- to makes audiences want to see the film it’s promoting!). So in the beginning of a trailer we are greeted within an equilibrium- main characters are introduced and established to us as well as the relationships they have (the father, mother and daughter being our main focus of attention). We are given the idea that the equilibrium is in play- they are all happy, getting along, smiling and talking about holidays and birthdays. Everything seems fine. But then a disruption is obvious when some new, un identified characters steal the daughter and her friend she is on holidays with. Then we are thrust intot he disequilibrium- and it is clear that the hero of the film (the father) is now on a quest to save his daughter and her friend also, form whoever is holding them captive. Although it is clear this character is going to go to extreme lengths to find her, whether he is successful in quest is left untold. We are left feeling that we know he is going to do whatever he can to save them, but we don’t know whether he will or what will happen to him/them in the course of events that plays in the film. Will a new equilibrium be established? Will there be a happy ending for them all? We just aren’t left with enough information to possibly tell- and that’s good because we want to know more….and that is better than knowing too much.


I say the biggest USP featured in the trailer is clearly actor Liam Neeson, who is playing the protagonist’s role. A big star, Neeson has a big fan base for his roles in popular films such as ‘Schindler’s list’ and ‘The A Team’.  So therefore audiences who like the actor or the previous films he has been in will be interested in watching this one when they see in the trailer that he is playing the leading role. Another USP could be actress Famke Janssen. Though probably not as well known or iconic as Neeson is, she has played roles in popular films such as the ‘X men’ trilogy and ‘I Spy’ and any who recognizes her, or likes the films she has featured in, will be more interested in watching this one when they see her name in the trailers titles. Another USP could be the fact it is a film by ‘Pierre Morel’ director of ‘District 13’ and although I personally have never heard of him, some people might recognize the name and feel they want to go watch the film if they have seen the previous works he’s directed or been a part in etc.

Target Audience…

I say men or women could be quite equal a target audience. For example, men have the protagonist, who is male, to relate to and connect with and women have the mother and daughter that they can relate to as well. I’d say in terms of age audiences targeted here are probably older because of the fact the protgaonist is in his 40s-50s and therefore people of the same age would be able to relate to the things life throws at the character. I also think that audiences who have children who are young adults (like the protagonist) would be able to connect to the film better too and understand his actions more as they could ask themselves- if they were in this situation with their children, what would they do? What lengths would they go to get them back? etc I also think the film looks like it could be quite dark or upsetting so therefore a more mature audience is required because younger audiences would either feel frightened by it or get bored of it.


At first the music is quiet and slow. This helps our attention to be focused on the dialogue and the tone and mood of the film to be set. I think it is quite clever as although everything in the actual action that is happening in the trailer seems happy and upbeat (going on holidays, birthdays, friends, family etc) the music contradicts this. I’d say the music sounds quite sorrowful and this makes us predict that something is wrong or that something bad is about to happen- making us want to watch on to see what this bad thing is and how it affects the characters we’ve been introduced to. This changes dramatically when ‘that phone call’ is made and the music changes to a more fast and dark tone. This gives us the sense that this is the disruption in the equilibrium and we wonder what is about to happen- it builds tension and makes us wonder on the welfare of the characters of the daughter and her friend. It builds up faster and louder as the daughter tries to hide from the intruders who have taken her friend. This makes us tense- is she going to be stolen too? What will happen to her? etc After the daughter has been taken too we are left with a change in music once again. this time it goes back to a more sorrowful and upset tone- and this makes us sympathize with what the father (the protagonist) is going through. It gives us the sense that he is distraught with what has happened and we want to know what he will do and whether he will get revenge. As the father explains to the intruders (who are un identified) on the phone that he has particular skills that he will use to get vengeance on them the music begins to build- getting loud and tense- it gives us the indication he will go to extreme lengths to get his revenge and what started out as pure sorrow quickly turns into rage. I think it’s useful how the film ends silent. It leaves us literally cut off from the end of the film and we are left without enough information to judge what will happen- making us want to go and see it. The silence is also quite sinister- it implies that the father will cross any boundary to get his daughter back..but will he get her back? And will he sacrifice the man he once was to be able to turn in to the kind of man that will be able to get her back?


Overall I felt the camera work used was very effective for keeping the audiences attention focused. The opening shot is a mid shot. It immediately establishes our main character and protagonist of the film to us as he is the first thing we see. There is then an over the shoulder/close up shot as the protagonist is hugged by a character we hear to be his daughter. Straight away then it is conveyed that they have a very close and happy father/daughter relationship and we want to watch on to see if this changes (and if it does, how and why?) . Shot reverse shots are then used while the father and daughter have a conversation about a holiday- this portrays the information shared here to be important as our attention is focused on it and we wonder how it could be of any significance to the story. Quickly we are given two shots of the daughter and her friend and also of the mother and father, who are all at the airport. This signals togetherness, happiness and lets us know that the holiday goes ahead as planned. The use of two shots could also be argued to show that the daughter/friend are now being separated from the father/mother and we wonder whether these characters will ever reunite and whether something might happen to keep them apart from one another. I then like the use of shots side by side (I’m sure they have a name….where two characters are seen doing something or interacting over the phone though not in the same place…but seen in the frame together…??) anyway this is used as the father rings up the father and instantly we know something bad is going to happen as we are put in a state where we, the audience, can see what’s happening to the daughter, but the father can only hear what is going on and we want to see whether something bad is going to happen to her. There are also parts were we have a POV shot and reaction shot side by side, which I thought interesting as although this may confuse the audience, it puts us in the character’s shoes and helps us connect with them- we see what they see. And their reactions also evoke a certain sense of mood in us and make us tense- the daughter starts whimpering and crying as she sees something happen to her friend, so we instantly start to feel sorry for the character and wonder what she will do. This si also done for the protagonist as he quickly sets up some kind of listening device or microphone and we get to connect with this character also as we see his reaction to what his happening, which makes us tense as we know what is happening and he is left not in the clear. Extreme close ups are also very usefully used in the trailer to give us that ‘thriller’ feel…it keeps things a mystery so that we don’t feel we are left knowing too much about the film or it’s narrative that we won’t need to bother going to see it. We have extreme close ups so that identities of villains are left a mystery for example, we see people getting killed/injured but it all flashes by so fast in such at such a close view that we aren’t sure of who’s doing what to whom. And that’s the way we want it. We don’t want to see too much. The action, violence and vengeance is implied and we want to see the actual film to see whether he gets it or not. Tracking shots are used vigorously on our protagonist telling us that he will search far and wide to find his daughter he is not going to give up on her anytime soon. It also reinforces his importance within the film itself. I also like how as the trailer progresses, the shot of the protagonist on the phone goes closer and closer a bit each time. It helps build tension and makes us feel that the protagonist is very determined and will not give up on getting his revenge- so therefore we are intrigued to see how far he will go to get his daughter back.


Well I think it follows the same old technique most other trailers use. Like films themselves, trailers start at a slow pace. Here it is no exception. The pace is slow as we are introduced to key characters, the relationships they have and themes and various narrative points. Here we are introduced to the father, daughter, the mother and the daughter’s friend. We’re given the feeling that everyone is happy and all is well- which is backed up by the trailer’s slow pace. When the equilibrium is there and all is well- the trailer doesn’t need to have a fast pace. But this soon changes when we are given the disruption in the equilibrium- when the daughter is taken the trailer begins to get very fast in places, making us tense in how the father is going to react to what has happened. We see various fast montages from different parts of the film- giving us hints as to what is going to happen but not enough time or information to know how any of the clips are linked or what could possibly happen in the rest of the film. These montages slowly build and get quicker the more the father talks to the person (likely to be a villain) on the phone about what he is planning to do. The darker his words get, the quicker the pace of the trailer. And what starts out to just be a father ignorant to what is happening/going to happen to his daughter soon turns into a man fuelled by anger stating he has the skills to get his daughter back and he will get his revenge. As the phone conversation ends with the intruder’s only words: ‘good luck’ this makes the pace slow down again. We are cut off and this slow pace leaves us feeling tense and shocked- what will he do? Will the protagonist be able to get his daughter back? Will he do terrible things to get what he wants? etc etc


Mostly I’d say the dialogue featured within the trailer is probably the most effective aspect within it. It gives us information on character types, relationships, narrative points and all kind of things that, given to us, would persuade us to go and watch a film. For example, the first piece of dialogue we hear is an off screen call of the daughter saying: ‘Dad!’ in a very delighted tone. This alone instantly gives us, the audience, a sense that this film will be about a father and a daughter who have a very close relationship and it sets up our expectations for the film even though the trailer for it has barely started. ‘Oh, my darling..Happy Birthday!…’- this dialogue form the protagonist tells us he is a loving and caring father who has a strong bond with his daughter. Then, a very important conversation is conveyed to us:

‘Dad, guess what? You know my friend Amanda?’ 


‘Her cousin’s asked us to spend the ____(sorry I really can’t make it out!!) with them in Paris… I really, really wanna go.’

This not only gives us a few new characters who could be vital to the story (daughter’s friend Amanda and her cousin, who is left unnamed) but also a sense that something is going to happen on this holiday. Because all our attention is focused on it, it seems fair enough to predict it will be a big part of the film’s narrative, otherwise why focus on it so much? It also presents character relationships maybe changing? Because in the conversation the daughter seems excited and eager to go ‘I really, really wanna go’ but the father is more laid back and says very little in the actual conversation. This indicates maybe he is a little over protective of her and perhaps doesn’t want her to go even though she has her heart set on it. But we know that he does in fact let her leave so maybe we can look over this little ‘humming and harring’ business for now. And then…it’s the phone call…very important to the plot of the film and sets the dark mood that wasn’t presented to us in the beginning, signalling the disruption:

‘Hi Daddy’ – all seems well, she is happy.

‘You were supposed to call me when you left’ (I think that’s what he says) – a bit over protective. Sounds like he was worried for her welfare and is a very caring parent. It makes us wonder whether she is in fact safe despite her dad worrying constantly about her.

‘there’s someone here….’ – this makes us very tense. She sounds frightened out of her wits. Who’s there? What’s happening? Why are these people in the house? We want answers!

‘What?’- the father looks frightened. He is ignorant to what is happening and we, the audience can see everything. This makes us even more tense and makes us wonder what he’ll do/how he’ll react to the situation.

‘God! They got Amanda!!.*whimpers* They’re coming!’– the daughter is clearly frightened and feels threatened and vulnerable. This helps put her and Amanda in the ‘victim’ category of characters and makes us wonder what will happen to Amanda and whether she’ll be taken too.

‘Alright, listen to me. Now go to the next bedroom, under the bed…’ (sorry can’t make out the rest) – this is where the protagonist appears to take on the role of the ‘hero’. He’s trying to comfort and help his daughter hide from these intruders and is taking action. But will it work?

‘Now, the next part is very important: they’re going to take you.’ – Okay I’m not very sure on this one. I’m not sure whether he knows his daughter can’t hide from the intruders and is trying to comfort her in some small way to be strong for whatever bad things happen or is he somehow in the know of what’s going on? I’m not sure how to interpret it. it just seems an odd thing to say….And then the father is left ont he phone with whoever has taken his daughter and this is where the film indeed gets darker and vengeance is clear:

‘I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want…’– this makes us very tense. He seems calm and determined. Like a different character. He isn’t reacting or worrying. He admits he knows nothing of the person who has taken his daughter and we connect with him because neither do we.  It also makes us wonder who the person is and what they want from the protagonist.

‘If you were looking for a ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money…’ – he seems to be laying the cards out on the table. Putting it straight to the intruder. He seems firm and heroic, like he may not have money to pay them off, but he has something else that can get his daughter back.

‘But what I do have is a very particular set of skills….skills I have required over a very long career.’ –we then are left to wonder what these skills could be? Is he connected to some kind of special job that will help him find them? As I said before this is very common in revenge films…and it also appears like he is beginning to threaten the intruder and take power over them.

‘Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you…’ – this is definitely a threat. He seems like he is determined to get his daughter back and he will do whatever it takes. It makes us think that maybe these intruders have picked on the wrong guy to mess with. It certainly differs from our first interpretation of the character: to be an overprotective, worrying father. It makes us wonder whether this disruption will the destroy the man we were first introduced to in the trailer?

‘If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it.’ – he is threatening the intruders. It tells us he’s powerful and loves his daughter a lot.

‘But if you don’t…I will look for you. And I will find you. And I will kill you.’ – this is where he makes his thirst for vengeance clear. If they disobey them he swears to God, by any means, he will hunt them down and kill them and not stop for anything or anyone before he does this. His determined and grave tone of voice makes us feel he is serious and we want to see how the intruders will react to this so very different reaction from the parent of a child who’s been taken. And we want to see whether he will do this and what the outcome of his extreme actions will be.

‘Good luck.’ – this tells us the intruder is not phased by the protagonist’s threat. Should he have ignored that? Hell no. Will he pay for ignoring this threat? Yes. And we want to see him pay for it too.

Voice Over…

No I’m not sure there is one….

Special Effects…

I am pretty sure that there was quite  a few within the trailer, basically for things like gunshots, car chases and violent scenes which are clearly specially created and weren’t actually filmed. I think this helps give the film a little more edge and shows it will contain a lot of action. But I think the fact that most of what the trailer actually contains footage that isn’t in need of special effects gives it a more realistic feel which makes what happens in the trailer all the more tense and frightening. It also tells us the film is more about the characters involved and the changes and challenges they got through and not actually about the special effects. I think the absence of loads of special effects allows our attention to be focused upon more important things like the characters.

Credits & Intertitles…

To be honest I didn’t see a lot of these. And almost all of them were situated at the end of the trailer. ‘Taken…A Film by Pierre Morel’ – tells us the name of the film, which, as always, is left till last to keep the audience wondering. Telling us the director’s names also gives us another USP to go on- and if we recognize his name from other films it may make us feel more persuaded to watch it. ‘Liam Neeson’ as I said, a big USP to the film and vital to put him in. His name is likely to get people in the theatres to watch the film even if they didn’t particularly enjoy the trailer, so it was obvious the trailer needed to put his name in. ‘Famke Janssen’ and ‘Maggie Grace’ are also USPs and let us know the others actresses behind the film and may persuade others to go and see the film itself. White on black, the titles stand out, capturing our attention. they also appear to be rough, af if badly treated or neglected and this connotes that the film will be violent and fast paced.


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