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A movie directed by Pierre Morel

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Magnificently Simple--While YOU Root for Daddy!!

  • Feb 8, 2009

I've always liked Luc Besson. His films usually have a lot of cool attitude but still touches on realism (ok, maybe not "The Transporter") in storytelling and it is always a delight to see him take on a popcorn action thriller. His past projects include "District 13", my personal favorite "Kiss of the Dragon" with Jet Li, "High Tension" and "Danny the Dog" (again with Jet Li). Besson co-writes and Pierre Morel directs in this latest action thriller "Taken", and the result is a trivial but solid action film which is full of taut, gripping parental fury. It sure also helps when you have Liam Neeson as a convincing "daddy" on a mission.

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a retired government operative--well, I believe he was a black ops operative. He retired and moved to be closer to his estranged 17-year old daughter Kim (played by 25 year old hottie Maggie Grace) and tries to maintain a friendly relationship with his re-married ex-wife (Famke Janssen). Bryan reluctantly agrees to his daughter's wishes to go on a Paris vacation with friend Amanda but he nonetheless gives his blessing. On Kim's first day in Paris, Bryan was on the phone with his daughter when he is kidnapped by those he believed to be Albanian goons. Bryan sheds his suburban outer personality and flies to France in the hopes of retrieving his only daughter. He fears that Kim has been abducted by a human trafficking ring, and he steps into the middle of it as he confronts horror and threats that would test his skills. But nothing can stop a father's love….

                   Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills, Maggie Grace as Kim and Famke Janssen as Lenore in "Taken."

                  Liam Neeson as Bryan in "Taken."

There is nothing very subtle with Pierre Morel's direction. After the mild set ups with Bryan's background and family relationships---after the cell phone call, the film goes into overdrive. The film takes off to investigative proceedings as Bryan combs the streets of France to find his daughter. He uses his CIA contacts, his deductive reasoning (I loved that scene when he went to the Paris apartment), and runs through the disturbing practices of human trafficking by the Albanian thugs. The direction is matched by straight-forward, all business personality of the main character as he rampages and messes up faces, beats and kills his way to find his daughter. There are minor plot twists but none too complex, there are no subplots whatsoever--this is a man on a mission and woe be unto anyone who stands on his way. The film is a very impressive exercise on simplicity.

The parental love element is nicely utilized to generate tension and thrills. The script by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen is a very effective revenge tale. It avoids the usual unnecessary subplots in favor of momentum, all the more developing Bryan's love for his daughter. The obstacle course imagined by the screenplay may be simple and truth be told, it isn't very intricate but the no-nonsense style is a delightfully fresh take than the usual Hollywood fare of redundant subplots and unnecessary build ups to perfunctory drooping finales. It also avoids the usual explosions and overused practice of special effects, but the film is full of mood, intensity and emotion. There is always an appreciation for magnificent simplicity in every take. 

                  Maggie Grace as Kim in "Taken."

                 Olivier Rabourdin as Jean Claude and Liam Neeson as Bryan in "Taken."

The action isn't your usual "hack-eyed", overly choreographed fight and car chase sequences. The fights are kept quick, brutal and simple. After all, Bryan is on a race against time, and he has not time to spare in drag out brawls. Our hero is accurate and goes for the kill in almost every encounter, he is very cold and emotionless as he batters and maims bad guys. The film is also more or less a chase film, its mood is very reminiscent of the "Bourne" franchise with a very alarming Albanian scheme. Liam Neeson turns out a very convincing portrayal of fatherly love, as he goes through the underworld with a zest and attitude that can be compared to an Eastwood or Bronson flick. Neeson is the film's main attraction; his encounters and the acts of aggression and panic is also the film's successful draw. 

                    Fani Kolarova as the streetwalker and Liam Neeson as Bryan in "Taken."

While simplicity may be the film's greatest strength, it may also prove to be its flaw. Keep in mind that this is a film with no intentions of reinventing the genre and kept close to the simple basics of a popcorn action thriller. I still admired the sense of restraint in the parts of the filmmakers, they avoided the perfunctory elements inherent in an action film as such explosions and overwrought visuals to deliver a thriller with a lot of energy and momentum that favors simplicity. The film is full of parental fury, violent action and brutal attitude as Bryan closes in on his daughter's kidnappers. It is an absolute exercise of familial vengeance, not entirely plausible but a fun, antagonistic beat down feature that will leave an after thought and will make you root for "Daddy" all the way.

Highly Recommended! [4+ Out of 5 Stars]

                      Poster art for "Taken."

movie poster Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills scene scene scene scene

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July 26, 2010
I loved this one, excellent review WP.
April 25, 2010
Watched the film tonight on DVD and I have to say it definitely kept my attention! At one point, I realized my dog was staring at me...LOL...I think because I was SO into the movie that I was talking to the screen and all tensed up and she was like "WTF?"
April 25, 2010
Yep, the movie was definitely attention-getting. Neeson knew how to grab the viewer's attention. I hope you gave your dog a treat after you ignored her ;-)
May 22, 2009
Its got me thinking that we might have another contender here for Van Damme to work with in the future now that he's proven he can act too.
June 16, 2009
so Karen Have you checked out "Taken" yet? I think you should...
June 16, 2009
Nope, not yet. Its on my highly flexible NetFlix queue though. So far I've been alternating between fluffy little horror flix for Wednesday and those much longer Bollywood flix for the weekends. A nice action flick might be a welcome change of pace soon.
May 13, 2009
I have been wanting and wanting to see this! I am so happy it is out on blu-ray. great review!
May 14, 2009
You know the uncut European release is even better! Thank God they did the dvd release just right and went for the extended release!
February 09, 2009
Not a film I would care for either, but then I never thought I would like the Bourne films either and to my great surprise, I did. If you recommend it, its gotta have something going for it.
More Taken (2008) reviews
Quick Tip by . April 03, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
Taken is good as a popcorn flick, but my main beef with this movie lies in the fact that for this type of movie, a PG-13 rating held back a lot of potential carnage that would be right at home with it.  Even with that taken into account, it was fun to see Liam Neeson kick a ton of ass and kill tons of heinous people.      As stated earlier, this is good popcorn entertainment, but if you want superior pieces of fiction dealing with the Eastern European human trafficking …
Quick Tip by . June 20, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I saw this again during Father's Day--I have to say that this has one of the best lines ever in movies. If a father is so calm and reserved during a stressful situation, when he says that he will find you, bad guys better listen--that means he means it...and he can.      Great Father's Day movie! see full review here.                              &n …
review by . May 12, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Parents, if you're tempted to allow your teenagers to travel on their own to Europe, watch Taken before you decide. Today's Europe is a far cry from the romantic picture that many Americans still imagine. Bad things can and do happen to naive teens arriving for an adventure. Having visited France, the setting for Taken, several times in the past decade, I can say firsthand that this country has been inundated with emigres from eastern Europe, and not all of them are innocents in search of …
review by . December 06, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a retired and divorced ex-spy, who now lives only for his estranged daughter. The trouble is, while she seems happy enough to see him when he manages to meet her, usually she won't give him the time of day. She's got all she wants from her enormously wealthy stepfather, and all she wants from her real father is permission to go to Paris. He's reluctant because, as an ex-spy, I guess, he knows that Europe can be much more dangerous than most people think, especially for …
review by . May 29, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
One of the most exciting and interesting movies to be released in the first-half of 2009, TAKEN is a thrilling movie about one father's journey to rescue his daughter from Eastern European kidnappers who intend to sell her as a sex slave to the highest bidder. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a retired CIA special ops man who has recently moved so that he can be closer to his teenage daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace) who is living with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and her wealthy stepfather (Xander Berkeley). …
review by . September 17, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
While watching "Taken" I was reminded of several other "Lost Child" films and surprisingly the one which first came to mind was Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Commando." Specifically this movie is what that movie should have been like. Liam Neeson outshines Arnold with a witty and far more sympathetic and charismatic character portrayal.    The film's plot is simple but has enough twists and texture to make it into a fulfilling experience. I could go on and on talking about Neeson …
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About this movie


What could be a skillful but ordinary action flick gets a surprising emotional heft from the presence of Liam Neeson as the hero. Bryan Mills (Neeson) has given up his career as a spy to form a relationship with his estranged teenage daughter--but when, on a trip to Paris, she's kidnapped by slavers, Mills uses all his connections and skills to turn the city of lights upside down and rescue her. Like most of the movies that writer/producer Luc Besson has a hand in (such asLa Femme Nikita,The Transporter,Unleashed, and many other French action movies),Takendrips with lurid violence (a bit toned-down to get a PG-13 rating, but there's still plenty of it), deranged sentimentality, and stereotypes of all kinds. But this doesn't stop his movies from being effective thrill-rides, andTakenis no exception.Takenpays just enough attention to the illusion of procedure--making it seem like Mills knows all the right steps to track down his daughter--that the movie cheerfully seduces your suspension of disbelief, despite many plot holes and scenes where Mills doesn't get scratched despite bullets flying in all directions or pretends to be a French policeman despite not speaking French or even adopting a French accent. What holds it all together is Neeson; his gravitas and emotional availability make his character--the usual action fantasy of impossible competence and righteous fury--somehow seem real and relatable.--Bret Fetzer

Stills from Taken (Click for larger image)


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Director: Pierre Morel
DVD Release Date: May 12, 2009
Runtime: 91 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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