PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

'Erased': A Father's Past is Inescapable, or Is It?

Renée Scolaro Mora

Although Erased doesn't portray it particularly well, the question it raises is an intriguing one: who controls anyone's life narrative?


Erased

Director: Philipp Stölzl
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Liana Liberato, Olga Kurylenko, Garrick Hagon
Rated: R
Studio: Radius-TWC
Year: 2012
US date: 2013-05-17 (Limited release)
UK date: 2013-04-05 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer

Ben Logan (Aaron Eckhart) is a great dad. Or, he wants to be. So, he puts on the part as he gets ready for work in the opening scenes of Erased, much like he does his office attire. And, just as the gruesome scars on his back appear to make his crisply pressed suit uncomfortable, so his snarky teenaged daughter Amy (Liana Liberato) points out that his role as father is also uncomfortable, and rarely worn. Amy has moved to Antwerp to live with Ben because her mother has died. Though he makes father-appropriate speeches about report cards and why it's his business to be in her business, he doesn't do things "the way Mom did" or know about her allergies or that she likes to be kissed goodbye before she leaves for school.

If this plotline sounds facile, it is infinitely more complex than the purported espionage mystery that drives the action of the film. Ben works as an engineer for a subsidiary of a company called the Halgate Group, "reviewing security devices for flaws." In other words, he's a highly paid lock-pick, breaking into the company's security in order to fix it. His solutions include such technological breakthroughs as holding a Blackberry up to a retina scanner and flashing a montage of 50 unique irises until it opens. Unsuspecting when asked to email his nervously twitching boss Derek Kolher (Neil Napier) the iris montage, Ben complies, only to find when he returns to the office the next day that there is no office, no staff, no equipment, no phones, no record the company ever existed. There is no money in his bank account, nor any record of any paycheck having ever been deposited.

It isn't long before ben and Amy are taken hostage at gunpoint and she sees a side to her father that defies what little she knows about him. Predictably, his going all Jason Bourne on their captor evokes more horror than gratitude. And yet, however repelled or confused she might be that he can kill a man with his bare hands, she knows he's right when he says, "The safest place for you to be right now is at my side, listening to what I tell you" -- this while pouring vodka into a bullet hole in her arm. As Erased's project, to bring them together, when Ben responds to her wincing with "Hold on to me," she does, physically and emotionally, for a while at least.

At this point we know something that Amy doesn't, that Ben, of course, isn't just some techno-geek engineer, but a former CIA Black Ops agent who was "decommissioned for growing a conscience," left to languish in Antwerp and unable to return to his family. As we're reassured that he's not a bad father, but only constrained by circumstance. Still, his renewed spy life never turns interesting here. The film fully spells out the crime Ben is trying to uncover 44 minutes in, leaving us to watch him flounder around for another hour figuring out what we already know. The Halgate Group is a greedy corporate monster with government connections and something to hide. And oh yes, its name brings "Halliburton" and "hell" together: we get it. Add to this such clichés as Ben asking a CIA agent, "When did you become everything we fought against?" and the response, "It's just business," and we can't wait to get back to the father and daughter storyline, however predetermined it might be.

Although Erased doesn't portray it particularly well, the question it raises is an intriguing one: who controls anyone's life narrative? The film makes the obvious case that identity is currency, available to be exchanged and altered, easily accessed or obliterated in a digital age.

But there are other issues of personal history and intent to consider. When Ben revises or erases his past for his young daughter to protect her emotionally, is that fair or ethical? Presumably, the CIA erased Ben as an operative because he refused to obey orders, effectively rewriting his background (for those that didn't know him) and his future, both as punishment and to protect civilians from the dangers of a "rogue" agent. But what happens when Halgate attempts to silence Ben, forcing him to rewrite his history with Amy again? Is his "true" nature is revealed in his expert capacity for violence? Or is that identity, that of the highly trained killer, written by the CIA?

The irony in all this is that poor Amy has no say whatsoever as her story is written and rewritten ad nauseam by her father from start to finish. This as the movie keeps moving Ben towards a moment of seeming genuine authorship, where he can control his life narrative completely if only for a single moment, as opposed to being controlled. As that moment remains a moving target, however, what Erased does manage to illuminate, dimly, is that the fear of erasure cuts both ways. On the one hand, we may fear that our identities and futures might be wiped out. On the other hand, we fear some parts of our past exist forever.

3

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.