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Taken

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on February 3, 2010

TAKEN (2008)

Sometimes I like nothing more than to watch and angry older man kicking some serious ass. I know that the anti-Semite Mel Gibson is currently in a similarly-themed movie that apparently did decently in the weekend box office (how can you watch him be all ragetastic without hearing him drunkingly saying “Sugartits”?!), though nowhere near what Taken brought in. I am going to guess that Mel’s film isn’t as good as Taken, too. And I don’t know if Mel can sell this character like Liam Neeson can (and did). Anyway, enough about that asshole– back to Taken! It’s a revenge movie filled with action, mystery, suspense, and plenty of heart. It’s a touching, vengeful massacre film. How often do you see a description like that?!

Plot plot plot. We need a plot. This is what I imagine the writers of this film pondering to themselves while they had images of older-man-badassery swirling around in their heads. Plot. Why is he kicking so much ass, other than the fact that he can? What drives him? Or, better yet, “what’s his motivation”? (God, I love that question.) The solution to this was to offer us about 15 minutes of set-up or so to get a feel for Liam’s character, as well as give us the catalyst for the romping, stomping madness that ensues for the rest of the film. So, here goes (and trust me when I say that this hardly counts as a spoiler since the major development was give away every trailer for this film):

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a retired Secret Service agent. He has super-assassin-skills and is quite clever. This gets illustrated with a demonstration of his crazy skills on a one-time job he agrees to post-retirement. As for Mills’ personal life, he is divorced and has a seventeen year-old daughter named Kim (played by Maggie Grace from early seasons of LOST, and who is not Leslie Bibb). His ex-wife (played by Famke Janssen of X-Men fame) has remarried an older, wealthier man. This man clearly makes Mills feel inadequate. There’s a lot of tension and bickering between Mills and his ex-wife, and conversations about Mills’ less-than-stellar parenting while he was on the job sets us up for a major emotional appeal that is bound to happen. Kim wants to go on a trip to Europe with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy), and Mills is notoriously overprotective and distrusting of the world. The emotional appeal comes, he allows her to go this one time in her life and the set-up is complete. The girls meet a random guy at the airport, agree to let him drive them to Amanda’s cousins’ apartment, where the girls are staying ALONE (a detail that Kim and, therefore, her father did not have the luxury of knowing before arriving), and they proceed to tell the random boy every single detail of their situation. Within 5 minutes, Kim has called daddy as promised and someone breaks into the apartment while she’s on the phone. She watches these men take Amanda and is told by her father that they will take her next (chilling!). He coaches her on what to do every step of the way and has her yell out whatever she can of their descriptions while they grab her. Once the phone call is ended by the creepy abductor on the other end of the call, Mills is in non-stop action mode.

That’s your set-up. I made it more flowery than necessary, and probably gave more details than I should have, but I wanted to put it all out there for you. That’s about 15 minutes of screen time right there. And it’s a bit painful to watch, really. I’m not talking about the part where the girls get abducted, either– the forced tension and bickering between Mills and his ex are pretty standard and over-the-top. Not only that, but the typical “Just this one time, Daddy, PLEASE?! I promise I will be safe and call you X many of times and I won’t go to other places and I’ll do ANYTHING YOU ASK” plea, which  leads to the worst-case-scenario inevitably occurring just bothers me. I’m tired of that device used in such a blatant, uninteresting way. And when you couple that with the fact that she lied to her dad about her plans to travel around Europe and that her own friend lied to her about family being present at the apartment in France… you just know something bad is going to happen. Throw in a random guy at the airport and you have a perfect storm. Thank God her dad has the training and resources he does, because any other father would have to kiss his daughter goodbye.

Now that I got that over with, let me address the rest of the movie. It’s fun. It’s pretty much pure fun. It’s smart, well-executed, crazyily intense, and totally insane in many aspects. But it’s so fun to watch. You are clearly rooting for Mills, and you know he HAS to get his daughter back somehow. The things he goes through, the schemes and devices he uses to do and get what he wants… it’s just fascinating. You totally buy his background and his badassery. Neeson sells it so well in this movie that I wonder if the reason why his Jedi character Qui-Gon Jinn was so weak wasn’t partially due to the fact that Neeson is too much of a badass to be a convincing keeper of the peace. Overall, I think I had an issue with one or two things Neeson did during this arc– which was essentially the rest of the movie– because it seemed like he made a couple of stupid mistakes after he was so diligent and smart about everything else. As I said in my District 9 review, sometimes when things seem so well thought-out in a movie for so long, a character making a mistake or doing something stupid will bother me. It’s nitpicky and probably silly in this case, because one of these moments occurred when he extremely close to getting his daughter back. And then his inevitable escape was just too lucky for words, which, naturally, bugged me as well. However, these are minor issues. The action was exciting and interesting, and not just there for the sake of being flashy. It all made sense–and was a bit terrifying because the world in which he was dealing was all too believable. I say that because the sort of shit that was at the root of this abduction really does happen, and I could imagine this being very much how it’s done in some cases.

I don’t have much to report on in terms of performances. I generally like Famke Janssen, but I didn’t like the character written for her. Still, she played the part well. Maggie Grace was also good in her part. There were other characters that were “supporting” in some respects, but this movie is basically all Liam, all the time. The bad guys were perfectly fine in their generic badness, too. But this is a Liam Neeson movie, and I’m so glad it was. He just oozes power and strength but he’s clearly a good guy. And he has a soothing voice, which is a nice counterbalance to his intensity in this film. I really like Liam Neeson.

Do I recommend this movie? Yes. I don’t care if you don’t like violence or if the idea of this movie is off-putting; it’s satisfying and fun to watch. And I’ve never seen anything that could be more convincingly pro-torture than this movie. The Dalai Lama would be all for torture after watching this movie. The most liberal person on Earth would be unable to watch this one particular scene and NOT cheer for Liam. Seriously, Dick Cheney should use this movie to convince people that waterboarding is a good idea. Overall, this is a totally solid piece of action/thriller/suspense cinema, and I think pretty much anyone who likes movies in those genres will enjoy this one.

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10 Responses to “Taken”

  1. Nivek said

    Nice review. Both me and my sister enjoyed this movie when we watched it a few months back, and this review makes me want to watch it again.

    ~Nivek

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      Haha, thanks! I’m glad it didn’t kill the mood of the movie for you. I think it’s worth re-watching, as well. Glad you enjoyed, and thanks again for the comment!

  2. Aaron said

    Great review! I do agree that Liam Neeson is a huge badass, and that some of the things, such as the intro, are over the top and kinda bleh. I was surprised you didnt point out his signature neck chop, which is totally awesome. But besides that, great review.

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      Haha, I kinda forgot about that. But it was still badass, so I think I covered it by the blanket statement of him being such a badass. However, you’re right– ninja neckchop was totally his thing :P.

  3. Alex said

    While the intro may not be particularly good, it’s better than the clusterfuck excuse for an ending. Cut out the last 5 minutes and you have a perfect film.

    Great review though, this is certainly one of my favourite films.

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      Aw but they wanted to make it all supersweet in the end and show how he was helping his daughter follow her dreams. They felt the need to add some sugar after all that bitter, bitter mix. I understand why they threw it in, even if it’s pretty trite.

  4. Selly said

    Hoi,

    great review! It brought more insight to the film tha the trailer really did well to omit – sorta. I’m still not very keen on watching it but I’m sure I will when it comes out on DVD. *cheap*

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      Haha it’s OK to watch on DVD, I think. I watched it for free on my On-Demand system at home while I was working out, and the pacing worked well for that. But it’s a fun movie and you might enjoy it :).

  5. Tsai said

    “I will find you, and I will kill you.” — “Good luck.” From the trailers I saw and what I actually saw, I enjoyed Taken much more than I thought I was going to. Though in retrospect I felt the concept brought saving your daughter to the extremes, I could certainly understand in Mr. Mill’s motivation for his actions; especially given his ‘skills’. And I must say, I agree with your review 100% and found it to be a fantastic action flick and totally loved Neeson’s acting capturing the whole ‘badass-I’m gonna do this-and-that and no one’s gonna stop me’ persona. 🙂

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      Haha I’m glad you enjoyed it! Yeah it’s a bit extreme, but at least they gave us decent explanations for such extreme situations (his background, his connections, etc.).

      Thanks for the comment!

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