Taken, a ticking-clock thriller, could have become a cliché film like so many we’ve seen before. However, Liam Neeson takes his character into some new territory for this solid actor and makes it an engaging and moving story.
Neeson (Schindler's List) plays Bryan Mills, a recently retired CIA operative who spends his time playing cards with other CIA retirees and trying to see his teenage daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). She lives with his ex, Lenore (Famke Janssen) and her very rich husband (Xander Berkeley).
Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Liam Neeson
Too busy enjoying the good life, Kim has little time for her dad, but he does get invited to her birthday party, which turns into a who’s who of socialites. Bryan arrives with what he thinks is a gift that will wow his daughter. It’s a karaoke machine he hopes will encourage her desire to be a singer. She is excited – for about ten seconds – until her step-father presents her with a beautiful new horse.
Bryan leaves unnoticed and saddened. He later becomes angry when he learns Kim also got tickets for a trip to Paris with a girlfriend. He advises Kim and Lenore that Paris is no place for two 17-year old teenage girls alone, but to no avail. The best he can do involves giving her a special cell phone on which she is told to call him and report in.
The girls have barely landed when they’re picked up by a terrorist operative, then kidnapped. Kim manages to call her father from under a bed, sending out a plea for help before she’s pulled away and drops the phone.
With the help of friends, Bryan is off on what he does best – tracking the kidnappers. His journey becomes an exciting glued-to-your seat adventure including explosions, high chase scenes and several dead ends.
Neeson rarely has a problem making us believe his character -- whether a Polish factory owner who saves Jews in Schindler's List, a kinky researcher in Kinsey or a romantic father in Love Actually. Yet I never expected to find him so compelling as a CIA operative. In Taken his character is determined to find his daughter at all costs, and Neeson stands out in every fast-paced scene.
Luc Besson (The Transporter) and Robert Mark Kamen’s (Lethal Weapon 3) script is tight, and direction by Pierre Morel rarely wavers. That’s not to say the film is perfect. There are many Mission Impossible type scenarios with preposterous circumstances that result in several “oh sure's!” But they’re fleeting moments while watching Bryan pursue his goal.
Bryan’s promise to one of the Albanian kidnappers who answered the cell phone Kim dropped –“I don’t know who you are, but if you don’t let my daughter go, I will find you and I will kill you,” – keeps us tuned in for the pay off.
Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen
Janssen and Grace offer little in their performances, but this is a Neeson driven story and they are merely window dressing. Taken will not disappoint anyone who likes Neeson or a good adventure/thriller.
Photo Credits: Stephanie Branchu/ Twentieth Century Fox