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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 22.97%
Average: 6.76%
Pretty Bad: 1.35%
Total Crap: 6.76%

5 reviews, 44 user ratings

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by Matt Seaver

"Why is it people always kidnap daughters of dangerous, dangerous people?"
5 stars

Sometimes, people want more than one thing from their movie. They want science fiction, but they also wanna laugh. They want suspense, but they also want a romance. They want family drama, but they want a twist of raging, psychotic serial killer carving coeds to bits (“Friday the 13th”… or I made it up. One or the other). “Taken” doesn’t mess around with any of that. It’s a thriller. It knows it, you know it twenty minutes in, and you never forget it until the very last second.

Assuming that people like some complexity, Taken might be a hard sell. Frankly, there’s not a lot of character here. There’s not a lot of background. There’s not a lot of relationship development. And honestly, there’s not a lot of moral consideration, all of which might turn some people off. But if you walk into this movie looking for a good time without any needless complications, you’ll walk out satisfied.

Liam Neeson, who owns the movie every single second he’s in frame (and there are very few Liam-less frames in the whole 90 minutes), plays Bryan Mills. There are really only three things you need to know about Bryan. A) He used to work as some sort of covert ops agent for the US government, a job at which he was very good, B) he is extremely meticulous and detail-oriented, and C) he loves his daughter, Kim, but didn’t get to spend much time with her growing up because of work. All of these points are bluntly established within the first twenty minutes.

After some exposition establishing tension between Bryan and his ex-wife (Famke Janssen), who now lives a much better life with her new, rich and present husband, Kim (Maggie Grace) asks her parents for permission to spend a summer in Paris with a friend. Bryan is skeptical, something that initially reads as overprotective, but it’s sort of understandable – without details, it is established that he has seen much more bad in the world than most people, and wants to shield his daughter from that if possible. But eventually he relents, with a number of seemingly-controlling conditions, and off she goes. Naturally, everything that could go wrong does go wrong within a matter of hours, and Bryan flies to Paris with a presumed 96-hour window to find his daughter before the trail runs cold.

Neeson is not a guy you look at and immediately think “action hero,” but he doesn’t have to be, because this is not that kind of movie. Bryan isn’t a hero. He’s not even trying to be a hero. Bryan is dangerous, and Bryan has a goal. He knows exactly of what he is capable, and as far as we know there is no line he won’t cross in order to attain his goal. Compared to most other lead characters, this could very well come off as a flat character, because he doesn’t demonstrate many of the humanizing qualities we’ve come to need from action heroes in order to justify their actions. Difficult decisions, especially those that might result in violence, pain or death, are typically given heavy consideration. This is not a concern for Bryan Mills. It’s not that he’s sadistic – at no point does he enjoy what is does. It’s not even that he’s immoral. It’s all about priority, and in his case, doing what he needs to do to find his daughter outranks any moral consideration he might otherwise have.

There’s the potential for commentary about Bryan’s life in the times leading up to or following this particular moment – what training made him this way, if he comes to regret his actions, etc. – but while those might be interesting ideas to explore, they aren’t this moment. For that, credit writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. Most of their scripts are action-based, but this sort of stripped-down single serving is relatively new for them (see Banlieue 13). They focus so completely on one situation, they’re able to really perfect the telling of this story, this moment, without other side plots getting in the way. The film is a straight line, from abduction to the end, and it is tense for the entire run. It’s really beautiful in its simplicity – sidetracks would have required more time to explain, and almost certainly would have lost the momentum of the main story.

Neeson’s not going to win any awards for this one, but I doubt there was any intention of that going in. This is a film about a man unleashed, and Neeson handles both extremes flawlessly. His stillness and quiet is often impressive, and nearly as frightening as his very, very violent outbursts, because to this guy, those are both means to the same end, equal tools for the same job. It’s Neeson that makes Bryan Mills dangerous, not his training or ability. But at the same time, it’s Neeson’s early sincerity in his love for Kim that justifies for the audience his actions later on, even though there’s absolutely a vindictive edge to some of the violence. Neeson’s total commitment to the black and white nature of what he’s doing sells that not only is Bryan doing what he must, but the bastards had it coming. There’s a recurring idea of focus that Bryan keeps coming back to – he exhibits it in everything he does, and he reminds everyone with whom he has contact of its importance. That idea really wraps up what Neeson brings to this part – a tunnel vision-esque focus that sets the pace and the mood for everyone else who has the pleasure or misfortune of being in Bryan Mills’s life.

The only issue with the film for me was the directing, car chases in particular. It’s a long-held complaint that didn’t get any better here… the best way to sell action and suspense in fistfights, in car chases and in tense scenes is to show us what the hell is going on. Showing Bryan’s car swerving in and out of oncoming traffic, hearing and feeling near miss after near miss, with the occasional look at Bryan’s reactions, will be much more tense than fraction of a second cuts that just end up being spatially confusing. I understand that the idea is to get a frenetic, stressful blood boil, but it doesn’t work for me. It’s stressful, but only because I get frustrated when I can’t see what’s going on. Anyone who wants to put a car chase in their movie ought to be forced to watch Tarantino’s Death Proof and take notes.

Other than that, Pierre Morel does just as well here as he did in Banlieue 13. He knows the story Besson is trying to tell, and knows the best thing he can do is stay out of the way. Besson and Kamen are working through Neeson to create this guy’s life and Morel is there to put it on film. He does well enough, but no one is exactly making it hard on him.

The TV spot, which got a lot of air over the last month, really sets the tone well. Bryan lays out exactly what he’s going to do in order to get his daughter back, and we get the pleasure of being along for the ride. Enjoy it.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 02/01/09 14:23:09
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Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.

User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell good action flick liam is cool 4 stars
2/26/15 stanley welles a brainless bilious mix of sentimentality and bone-cracking violence 1 stars
10/02/14 joey from brooklyn albanian mobsters! suck it! 5 stars
10/25/12 Charles Tatum Quick, and full of loopholes 3 stars
8/27/12 David Pollastrini A tension filled thriller. 4 stars
6/19/12 fartvenugen So bad. Seagal did this much better in the 80s. 1 stars
6/08/11 R.W. Welch Snappily paced actioner with sharp writing and acting. 4 stars
3/27/11 Ken I adore a good revenge movie. This was right up with Man on Fire 4 stars
2/04/11 Monday Morning Hey Lee, the plural "morons" doesn't get an apostrophe, you moron. 5 stars
9/22/10 bored mom It's Splinter Cell: The Movie. 4 stars
4/06/10 TreeTiger The best action/revenge movie I have seen in years! 5 stars
1/05/10 RLan If you like action movies, this is one you should see. 4 stars
7/26/09 Bryan Tough, well-acted suspense thriller. 4 stars
7/09/09 Jeff Wilder Not a bad action movie. But as far as thrillers of this type go Man On Fire was better. 3 stars
6/09/09 Lee moron's wrote it, directed it, watched it themselves and loved it. fucking moron's 1 stars
5/29/09 kitfo another paranoid fantasy about child abduction, how could a simple plot have so many holes? 2 stars
5/26/09 Anonymous. great action but not a great movie... 3 stars
5/26/09 Bnorm It was incredible how many people that old man killed. Liam Neeson was great 5 stars
5/25/09 Brandon Allin Exhilarating all the way through 5 stars
5/21/09 Kike Sosa Liam Neeson's my new definition of "BAD-ASS" 5 stars
5/08/09 Samantha Pruitt AWESOME! constant action, Liam Neeson kicks ass! 5 stars
5/04/09 Mr. White Who knew that throat punching would be this good! 5 stars
3/25/09 ravenmad Awesome!!! Wish it got more press. Human trafficking is a sad reality. 5 stars
3/19/09 Total Crap Way overrated, great action but forgettable. I feel like I've seen all this before. 3 stars
3/18/09 ES Very good movie, Bryan Mills is a machine 4 stars
3/15/09 mr.mike Pulse-pounding , with Neeson top notch. 4 stars
3/10/09 Monday Morning Best thriller I've seen in years. They didn't even need the car chase(s). 5 stars
3/06/09 Elaine Best movie ive seen in 2009! Made me cry, laugh, scared.. everything a movie should be! 5 stars
3/02/09 Aaron Women and hyper-sensative liberals hate this movie.....which means that it is awesome. 5 stars
3/01/09 g. Excellent film, Neeson is great. However Maggie Grace was horribly miscast. 5 stars
3/01/09 blah blah uncut version is fucking awesome and brutal 5 stars
2/15/09 Todddi I think i could have written that script 1 stars
2/15/09 Joey Schmaloney Great film! Uncompromising and brutal. Neeson gets what he comes for and deserves to. 5 stars
2/15/09 Jenny Enjoyed every minute. Nice to see the bad guys get what they deserve! No negotiations. 4 stars
2/13/09 Wil worth the theater ticket, better than jack bauer from 24 5 stars
2/10/09 Brian When people kidnapped Peter Lorre's kid they immediately gave her back. Now that's scary. 4 stars
2/09/09 KingNeutron Only movie Ive seen since Dark Knight that was worth the Theater $$! 4 stars
2/06/09 Man Out 6 Bucks About time someone pinned Albanian KLA terrorists 4 stars
2/05/09 Faraz J Not special in anyway. And i seem to have seen iit way before the release. 3 stars
2/04/09 Aesop Action. Adventure. Entertainment. What a concept, huh Hollywood? 4 stars
2/01/09 Alex Thorne brutal, nasty, unflinching, and brilliant for it 4 stars
2/01/09 Ming great thriller and lots of actions 4 stars
2/01/09 Jack Sommersby The best action-thriller in years and the outstanding Neeson's best performance. 4 stars
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  30-Jan-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 12-May-2009


  DVD: 12-May-2009

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Pierre Morel

Written by
  Luc Besson
  Robert Mark Kamen

  Liam Neeson
  Famke Janssen
  Maggie Grace
  Goran Kostic
  Katie Cassidy

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