Whatever may be the ulterior reason behind Lifetime thrillers frequenting national parks lately, we’re not complaining. After all, the least we can ask of our melodramatic TV movies is the effective distraction of prettier settings when the thrill loses its grip on us. That is, if it does grab hold of it in the first place. But on a more hopeful note, if Taken in Montana is any indication, the move towards broody, cinematic settings isn’t all that’s improved in Lifetime flicks. With a much graver stake to prop up the tension, Taken in Montana does what its predecessors invariably struggled to achieve: it infuses the narrative with an adequate amount of emotional wager for you to actually root for the people it lands in a world of trouble.
What Happens in the Movie?
The trip to Montana is supposed to be more of a chance to unwind and resolve the ongoing familial issues for Craig, Sarah, and their daughter, Regan. Work has been taking up too much time and has inevitably had a detrimental effect on the couple’s dynamic. What’s worse? Regan’s teenage shenanigans have been keeping Sarah up at night. It’s understandable that Sarah is inherently a tad paranoid and inquisitive. It only adds to her overwhelming success as an investigative reporter. Craig’s a bit all over the place. And when there are clear indications of something sketchy going down between Craig and his old friend Jackson, who just happens to be the owner of the cottage they’ve turned up in, Sarah can’t shake the feeling that her husband’s keeping something from her. With a terrifying brush with road rage leaving them all a bit shaken up, the relaxing trip just keeps getting more and more nerve-wracking.
How Do Sarah and Craig Escape the Contract Killer?
Not that Taken in Montana was interested in masking his obvious wickedness, but something about Jackson screamed bad news the second we laid eyes on him. It only gets more evident through his intimidation of Craig, who, as it seems, is in murky waters for making the mistake of putting himself in a position where he’s indebted to Jackson. When their history itself reeks of unresolved trouble, it’s no wonder that Jackson hasn’t made it easy on Craig after lending him the money to save his store. The worst mistake Craig’s made, however, is handing the wheel to his giant ego and keeping his wife in the dark about all this. It’s this secret that he aims to protect as he gives into Jackson’s odd demand of handing an envelope to a sketchy man.
Thankfully, Sarah’s astute observation has made her sort of suspicious of the whole thing, and once she’s gotten a whiff of something sinister, she’d rather accompany Craig than let him venture out alone. Thrashed and tied up to be killed, Sarah and Craig learn that they were essentially delivering the bounty on their own heads. While it’s initially Sarah’s quick-witted moves that win them a way out of there, Craig’s not half bad either, as he readily incapacitates the creepy contract killer and runs off into the thick woods with his wife. The trouble is, Jackson isn’t paying the man the big bucks for nothing. He knows the woods like the back of his hand. And he only makes it tremendously harder on the couple, who’s looking for a way out of the woods, when he shoots an arrow right through Craig’s leg.
Does Sarah Save Her Parents?
What Taken in Montana centralizes through the characters, their daunting circumstances, and their actions is the prevalent theme of human resilience in the face of absolute danger. For a teenager in a strange place faced with the nonchalant disregard of people around her, Regan shows the utmost stability and functional state of mind even when the nerve-wracking anxiety of her parents being away overwhelms her. And as you witness and can’t help but get utterly impressed by her parents’ unwavering fight for survival in the dreadfulness of the woods, you know where Regan’s gotten her strength from.
Of course, in a film like Taken in Montana, receiving any substantial help from the local authorities is a pipe dream. So Regan’s practically on her own in her search for her parents until the cottage employee, Jackson’s nephew Tyler, offers a helping hand. It’s through this emotionally exasperating search that some of the cracks in Regan and her mother’s relationship start to peek through. As you can imagine, the crushing possibility of never seeing her mother again when she’s disappointed her immensely through her actions just isn’t letting Regan take a moment to calm herself. She has to make things right. And I imagine that part of the reason Craig proposed this trip was to reawaken the love between him and his wife, something that’s gradually faded as they’ve forgotten to appreciate the blessing that their relationship really is. The more you see of Sarah, the formidable woman who doesn’t so much as tremble as she yanks the arrow out of Craig’s leg or when a pack of wolves surrounds them, the more it dawns on you why her family would go to any length to win her affection. Sarah’s a fighter, and from the looks of it, so is Regan.
Taken in Montana however, doesn’t hold back on intensifying the stakes as Regan’s hope of ever finding her parents gradually declines. A whole new conflict jumps into the ring to unleash its perilous wrath against anything worth fighting for. The evidence that possibly implicates Jackson in being involved in poaching wild animals seems to hold a far darker secret than even she’d thought. Jackson’s illegal poaching empire, catering to his rich clientele’s heinous ambitions, comes to light as trainee ranger Judy tags along in the search. Craig’s dug himself and his family their graves by refusing to participate in this very business Jackson’s built in the safety of the National park. Despite her initial distrust of Judy, Regan quickly comes to rely on him as his actions attest to his reliability. There’s a lot of common ground between the two, so it’s no surprise that sparks fly even amidst the increasing tension. But the one thing that truly allows them to nurture an authentic connection is their love for their parents.
The indomitable rage and strength Regan has inherited from her mother resonate with the fearless morals Judy’s activist parents have instilled in him. It’s through their combined efforts that they unmask the evil that Tyler hides beneath his guise of benevolence. Jackson clearly hasn’t moved on from the life-altering humiliation that Craig’s actions subjected him to in college. For someone still fixated on decades-old bitterness, it’s no surprise that Jackson’s hunt for Craig and Sarah is far more fuelled by his desire for vengeance than his wish to safeguard his illegal poaching business. Despite having the area’s law enforcement in his pocket and his family’s legacy offering him protection, Jackson’s pursuit of Craig and Sarah is wildly misdirected by his convoluted motivations and emotional turmoil.
With Regan and Judy’s cool-headed moves remarkably outmaneuvering Tyler’s bone-headed plan for locating and killing Sarah and Craig, they’re only brought closer to where Craig has bled to unconsciousness. Even with Jackson in the mix, the bad guys are no match for the remarkable communication and undying strength that help Sarah and her family incapacitate them and get themselves to safety.
What Taken in Montana‘s ending upholds as its primary message is how it’s never too late to at least try and reattach the threads that’ve worn out with time and inadvertent negligence. Immersed in her work, Sarah has unknowingly made space for a significant distance to grow between her and her family. As for Craig, it’s taken him a near-fatal escapade to finally internalize the fact that he’d be loved by his family even when he fails to conform to the stereotypical expectations the man of the house is supposed to fulfill. But the most endearing and well-deserving win inevitably goes to Regan, who’s proven herself to be the kind of kid any parent would be immensely proud of. She even gets her adorable knight in shining armor in the form of the valiant park ranger, who seems to have fallen quite hard for her.