Taken (2008)

Taken (2008)

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Liam had just found out how large his phone bill was.
Liam had just found out how large his phone bill was.

Twitter Plot Summary: When his daughter is kidnapped on a trip to Paris, Bryan Mills has to use his particular set of skills to save her.

Five Point Summary:

1. Four guys: red meat, red wine. This will only end badly.
2. Five minutes in Paris, and she’s taken. Some people shouldn’t travel abroad.
3. Liam Neeson has a very particular set of skills…
4. Some people die…
5. A few more people die and… the end.

Taken is built on a ludicrous premise, but the key thing is that it is completely aware that it’s ludicrous. Once you take that into account then it’s a huge amount of fun. Expect nothing but the most outrageous of revenge thrillers and you’re sorted for an entertaining 90-odd minutes.

Bryan Mills is a former agent for the US government, now retired and eager to reconnect with his daughter (Maggie Grace), who he wasn’t there for as she grew up and has just turned 17. She heads off on a jolly to Paris where things almost instantly go wrong and she’s kidnapped. Thankfully her dad is a naturally suspicious type and is soon crossing the Atlantic and is hot on her trail. What follows is 60 minutes of gradually escalating silliness as Mills takes on the entire French criminal underworld, killing indiscriminately and barely suffering a scratch in return, like some indestructible John McClane/Jack Bauer type action hero.

Perhaps not surprisingly, having an actor of Liam Neeson’s calibre is in the film’s favour – he brings a certain level of gravitas to any performance he gives, and Taken is no different. Take “that” monologue for example – it wouldn’t work anywhere near as well if one of the other well known action stalwarts had delivered it. When it’s Liam Neeson on the other end of the phone, however, you know he means business.

The story is really, really simple when you break it down – it’s 60 minutes (following the lengthy opening build-up to the kidnapping) of Liam Neeson moving from one location to the next trying to locate his daughter before an arbitrary time limit expires and she’s lost to him forever. There’s some subtext there about him not being there enough for her when she was growing up, and now he’s effectively making up for that by, like, not letting her die or be sold into prostitution. That would explain why he does the whole gamut of action sequences stolen from 24 – torture, a car chase, butting heads with the local authorities and random acts of violence on bad guys are, of course, obligatory. Besides Neeson and a brief couple of scenes with Olivier Rabourdin’s local French police officer Jean-Claude, there is little else for anybody else to do – Maggie Grace is limited to screaming down the phone and looking doped up. This is the Liam Neeson show, and it’s better for that fact.

Maggie knew that her father would hit the roof - international calls aren't cheap.
Maggie knew that her father would hit the roof – international calls aren’t cheap.

What does it matter that a lot of people get killed with no consequences? What does it matter that Mills breaks most applicable laws in France on his bloodthirsty quest? What does it matter that the girl Maggie Grace goes to Paris with ends up on the wrong end of an enforced drug overdose? Can anyone remember her name anyway? No? Then she was clearly inconsequential beyond giving the French kidnappers a reason to kidnap them. Stranger danger, folks – even in Paris.

It loses its way a little by the time we reach the final act, but as the film responsible for the reinvention of Liam Neeson’s career as an action movie star, it’s hard to be too critical. Enjoy the ridiculous story and nonsensical action plot and take it for what it is – gloriously daft fun.

Score: 3.5/5

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