The Story: Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a retired CIA “preventer” trying to establish a relationship with his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). When Kim wants to go on a trip to Paris with her friend Bryan is hesitant but agrees. Immediately upon arrival Kim and her friend are abducted by human trafficker’s intent on hooking them on drugs and selling them as sex slaves. Bryan has 96 hours to find Kim and bring her home, or else lose her forever.
Pros: This movie has been readily available overseas and been delayed a few times, which normally doesn’t bode well for the story. Taken has some hefty credentials working in it’s favor, written by Luc Besson who made The Professional and filled with stars like Liam Neeson and Famke Janssen. It’s gotten some great reviews overseas and the critics there are right because Taken is a perfect action/adventure film that is sure to please fans of the genre. The movie sets up some wonderful exposition with Bryan attempting to make up for lost time with his daughter, there’s a heartwrenching scene at Kim’s birthday party that really makes you feel for Bryan and wanting his daughter to love him. As soon as he agrees to let her go to Paris you know something horrible is going to happen and the scene of Kim’s abduction, shown in the previews, is more tense in the context of the movie. I sat on the edge of my seat for the entire hour and a half because once Kim’s abducted it’s nothing but Bryan kicking ass and taking names. There’s neck cracking, gun fighting and stabbings to satisfy even the most devout action buff, but it’s never at the expense of the film. There are also a few moments that truly surprise you, one involving a villain and bus was one that made me gasp out loud. Even with all the violence you see the pain and suffering that Bryan is going through. It may be hard to envision Neeson, who’s pushing 60, as a big action hero but really the scenes cater to his age and he’s a pretty intimidating guy when he wants to be. The movie is quick and doesn’t have any dull moments and the ending will bring a tear to your eye after all the torment both Kim and Bryan have gone through. It’s also interesting to see how human trafficking works in Europe, something that is a big part of the story but is tastefully dealt with. At the end of Taken I was exhausted with everything, but really happy I saw it.
Cons: I couldn’t fault the movie since the story is pretty cut and dried, which might turn off people looking for a deep and complex tale. The movie is incredibly violent and filled with some gruesome imagery so if you’re squeamish you might want to avoid it. It was also a bit hard to believe that immediately after arriving in Paris, Kim is snatched and it comes about 30 seconds after Bryan warns her. My biggest issue was with Famke Janssen but I’ll get into that in the acting section.
Acting: The acting in this is pretty solid, then again you only have a few main characters. Liam Neeson is brilliant as Bryan Mills. Not only can Neeson pull off the tough action guy, not afraid to shoot a man’s wife in front of him, but he’s also a loving father. Neeson shows so much on his face with just a look and the way he looks at Kim is wonderful. Young Maggie Grace shows she can hold her own in something like this as Maggie. She doesn’t get a ton of lines but her presence alone kicks off the whole crux of the film. A weaker actress would just stick to crying but Grace shows that she loves her father and transcend her weak character. The weakest link is Famke Janssen as Lenore, Bryan’s wife and Kim’s mother. Janssen is usually pretty solid but her she just comes off as mean and cold. I understand her character has a reason but right off the bat she’s just mean and at the end her respect for Bryan never feels sincere.
Overall: Taken is a strong action/thriller that will leave you wanting more. Neeson is a superb action hero and Luc Besson writes a tale that will have you talking after the movie’s over. I give it a 5/5.