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….
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.
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.
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]
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