Taken, directed by Pierre Morel, is very good action thriller. Liam Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, an ex-CIA agent who left Central Intelligence Agency to salvage his relationship with his daughter. Bryan already sacrificed his marriage to his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) in the service of his country and doesn’t want a repeat of history.
After Bryan saves a flippant singer from a would-be attacker after a live performance, Bryan encounters a situation he finds infinitely more dangerous. Though hesitant, Bryan allows his “teenage” daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) to go to Paris with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) to visit museums though they are really going to be following U2 around Europe. Soon after touching down, men break into where Kim and Amanda are staying and kidnap them.
Kim is on the phone with Bryan during most of the kidnapping, allowing Bryan to give her advice on how to act during this crisis. This a clear illustration of the expertise and seasoning Bryan possesses. Most parents would become hysterical; Bryan is calm and clear-headed. Because of his instruction, Kim is able to give Bryan valuable information about her kidnappers before she is gagged and taken out of the room.
When Bryan arrives in Paris looking for his daughter, no one is safe as he goes on a focused rampage looking for clues and tracking down those involved in the kidnapping. One of Bryan’s old acquaintances; now comfortable behind a desk and wanting to keep it that way, gives what help he can but is more interested in job security than in assisting Bryan. Taken is almost as unforgiving a revenge film as Man on Fire, which has even more brutality than this film and is as harsh as Marvel’s The Punisher films should be.
When Bryan tortures someone, he doesn’t talk about what he is going to do; he just does it then asks his questions. It’s not like on television’s Alias or The Punisher (2004) where they talk, never really do anything (or cut away when they do) or someone miraculously intervenes at the last second. It’s just Bryan, the person he is torturing and pain Marv from Sin City could appreciate.
Taken’s fight scenes aren’t thrown in to spice things up, they are very appropriate to the character and the situation he is in. They also speak to the long career and skills he acquired during it, which were alluded to earlier in the film. I was impressed by some of them but since Luc Besson is a producer for Taken, I should not have been that surprised. I have heard that these fight scenes are reminiscent of those found in The Bourne Identity series. Since I have only seen the first film in that series (the television version staring Richard Chamberlain is more faithful to the book), I can not fairly equate them with that. What I can say is that Bryan is one efficient and quick killer with no compunction for blood work. The wet work and the film’s other favorable attributes notwithstanding, Taken is not without its flaws. We are never shown the Human Trafficking issues and trials that Kim and Amanda had to endure while Byran searched for them. If these elements had been included, it would have broaden the film and made it more than a mere action film but a drama with numerous action segments.
Pierre Morel’s Taken is a great ride, a thriller that thrills and never lets your attention go for a second. Now if only other revenge, action films could take a queue from Taken, the cinema would be a better place.