Taken


Year 2008

Liam Neeson as  Bryan Mills
Maggie Grace as Kim Mills
Olivier Rabourdin as Jean-Claude
Arben Bajraktaraj   as   Marko
 
Director - Pierre Morel
Screenwriters - Luc Besson
  - Robert Mark Kamen  
Cinematographer - Michel Abramowicz

Taken is a live action video game. It's very good, but it has the pacing of a video game complete with level bosses.

The plot is not that original. An estranged father tries to get back with his daughter. He, of course, is some sort of special operative. Then, his daughter is kidnapped and he has just a few days to track her down and rescue her before it's too late.

Because of this simple premise, I've avoided the movie for years. But, I decided to give it watch one night when I was bored and, even though it's nothing more than what I expected in terms of depth, it has style, acting, cinematography, and tension to spare.

First off, my comments are made after watching the unrated version and not the theatrical release. Although there's nothing added in terms of back story, from what I gather some of the scenes are much more brutal in the unrated version. Also the sounds of bones cracking can be heard in the unrated version and they are missing in the theatrical release.

This is important because the shock value is what the movie relies on throughout. Without these little additions, I can imagine that the movie just misses being good.

What makes this movie worth viewing? Well, the tone of the movie is a good place to start. It's corny in some scenes, but overall the attempt makes the premise and succeeding events believable. They really aren't, but with the breakneck pace of the movie, you don't have time to dwell on credibility.

Marathon Man wasn't escpecially convincing, but no one forgot the torture scene in the dentist's chair and "Is it safe?" was quite often quoted. Taken doesn't have any quotable lines, but it does have memorable scenes. Like the one where the daughter is kidnapped. Or the one where Marko is made to spill the beans about who has the daughter. They stay with you.

The villains are villains. The good guys aren't really good. Liam Neeson as the father Bryan Mills is great casting. Who'd have thought Liam Neeson would be a great action hero? Oh, there was Darkman but even that didn't come close to the capable, focused Mills.

Mills has no sense of right of wrong. Rather there is no wrong in what he is doing to get his daughter back. The ends justify the means. Do I need to shoot your wife? Bam! "It's just a flesh wound." And later, after Mills gets what he wanted, he tells his former friend and husband of the woman he shot, "Tell <whatever her name was> that I'm sorry."

What keeps you watching is the kitchen sink effect. Every evocative emotion that the screenwriters could think of is used. Every type of level boss confrontation as well.

And although all this keeps you watching and being entertained at the edge of your chair, it is ultimately not satisfying. There are too many coincidences and no consequences.

Examples of coincidence include Mills being on a one-time-only bodyguard assignment, having someone attack the person being guarded, and being the only one in position to neutralize the attacker. More? Mills attempts to locate his daughter by infiltrating a prostitution ring. Not only does he immediately meet someone with ties to his daughter but after later descending on the brothel he again manages to meet someone who knows his daughter. For this last person, in a city of over 2 million people, he meets the one person who might lead him to his daughter because she has his daughter's coat. There are many, many instances of Mills just happening to be in the right place at the right time.

Even his being on the phone with his daughter at the very moment she is taken is excessive coincidence.

No consequences includes the fact that peripheral characters show up just long enough to be useful to the story and are then taken to disposable character limbo. The girl who had his daughter's jacket? Mills pumps her with fluids and provides some chemicals to help the girl get over her chemical addiction. Then, after he gets what he needs, she's never heard from again. Mills wipes out everyone on a boat. How does he get to shore without the cops being all over him? Where are the consequences?

The music can be distracting. At the beginning it's fine, but toward the end you have to wonder about the choices.

But it's well acted and wonderfully paced and you won't mind checking your mind at the door for the duration of the film. There's a pretty hefty body count thanks to guns with unlimited ammunition. The camera angles and editing cuts are near perfect.

No nudity, but there is profanity and some blasphemy. There's at least one gruesome scene. Very little chick flick potential. It's a good guy film.


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