Movie: Taken (2008)

Taken
Director: Pierre Morel; Writers: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen; Stars: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen.

According to Empire Magazine Taken raked in ‘north of $200m from a budget of $25m’ and in March of this year it reported that Neeson had ‘all but signed on the dotted line for a sequel’.  That’s a sign it’s a good one, yes?

Well, it has a surprisingly slow start.  We meet Bryan Mills who looks a bit Mr Average, a bit quiet and a bit down on his luck.  He’s divorced and his ex has married a man of many means, with daughter Kim living with them.  Bryan does not have an invitation to her seventeenth birthday party and the scenes here are pretty fraught as he tries to connect with his daughter while his bitchy ex imposes cold rules at the same time as accusing him of being wrapped up in his own.  But it gets worse.  Kim wants to travel to Paris with a friend for the summer and Bryan’s protective dad needs a lot of persuasion.

She goes and the travel plans fall by the wayside on arrival when a group of men enters the apartment to kidnap the girls.  Fortunately, Bryan had set up Kim with a cell phone to keep in touch and he is able to get a measure of the situation at the critical moments.  If Taken is worth watching it’s worth watching for Neeson’s delivery of these lines alone:

‘I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.’

‘Good luck’ is the confident reply he receives and Bryan is true to his word.  What follows is like another movie altogether.  Neeson’s Bryan is actually ex-security services and his arrival in Paris brings a lean mean killing machine for Bryan will stop at nothing to recover his daughter who is in the hands of Albanians who kidnap young women for their prostitution racket.  He doesn’t even leave the airport without leaving one, or possibly two, dead (he’s warming up here).  Bryan seems to know exactly where to punch, kick, twist, thrust and jab to disable a man in seconds.  And there’s lots of this across Paris as he seeks out his daughter.

By the time he reaches Paris (in wealthy step-dad’s very handy private jet to save time) he has less than the original 96 hours in which to find Kim.  And this is where you’ll need to leave your disbelief suspended in the Louvre for an awful lot of mayhem takes place with a high body count, but there’s never a policeman in view.  No siree, there’s only another retired-from-the-frontline-now-with-desk-job security services man (of the home turf) and he and his back ups are forever 20 paces behind.

Also, Bryan shows amazing ingenuity in coming up with the tools of his former trade like a magician plucks rabbits from a top hat.  Did he pack all those surgical kits with the right drugs and instruments of torture before he left?  How did he recover them given the nature of his departure from arrivals at the airport?  How did he get a fake ID card so easily?  No, this part of the movie is not for thinkers, it’s for those who simply enjoy a thrilling ride and who don’t balk at the violence.

Neeson does action hero rather well as it happens.  The fight scenes are quite realistic too.  While Taken may open the window onto the problem of eastern European crime infiltrating the west with its drugs, human trafficking and prostitution, these scenes still have a little too much Hollywood gloss about them, however good the make up is.  Perhaps it’s only Mike Leigh who can really achieve a hovel as a hovel would present in real life.

Does he get his daughter back or is she damaged goods by the time the sequel appears?  You’ll have to watch to find out.   I wonder if that Parisian car hire company have found their Audi yet?

[I picked up the ‘extended harder cut’ version for £2.99 in a supermarket.  Its 18 certificate carries a warning ‘contains strong violence and extended scene of torture’.  There.  You have been told.]

8 thoughts on “Movie: Taken (2008)

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Thank you, as always, for this candid and thoughtful review. I agree with you that Liam Neeson does “action thriller” rather well. I admit I haven’t seen this movie, but the premise is compelling. I’ll just have to decide how much action and violence I’m willing to see…

  2. Tom Williams

    I have to admit – gulp – I rather enjoyed TAKEN. The thing that made me uncomfortable though was the Orientalist under current: dodgy, fat middle-easterners corrupting our virgins who are only to be saved by the might of American power etc. Fierce stuff from a Frenchman. Once you’ve moved on from that sort of thing off, it’s a a bit of gory fun.

  3. Bookrepublik

    Good summary – yes a ridiculous playing out of a rather good concept but one hell of an action flick. Agree with Tom about the subtext… who would’ve thought that the tolerant French didn’t like Muslims eh?

  4. Tom Bale

    As you’ve said, this film has its flaws but I must admit I loved it. Neeson is a fantastic action hero – and that compelling little speech of his is brilliantly mimicked by Steve Coogan in The Trip, by the way.

  5. Maxine

    This was on TV last night and I nearly watched it but didn’t. Maybe I will now, if it comes on again. I saw another Liam Neeson film recently that was very good against expectations, but of course I can’t remember the title – another one-worder I think. It was about a scientific prof and loss of identity,pretty good really.

    1. crimeficreader Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Maxine. Kim (kimbofo) watched it last night and tweeted. She said she’d never get her 90 minutes of life back. She really, really hated it.

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