Brief Review - Taken (2009)
Liam Neeson ... Bryan Mills
Famke Janssen ... Lenore
Leland Orser ... Sam
Radivoje Bukvic ... Anton (as Rasha Bukvic)
Mathieu Busson ... Undercover agent
Holly Valance ... Sheerah
Taken is a tightly-knit suspense film somewhat in the mold of classic noir detective films. Gritty and stripped of most (but not all) sentimentality, it is a dark view of a sub-culture of criminal activity that co-exists with europe's cultural elite and system of law and order.
Packaged together in just 91 minutes (USA version), Liam Neeson is a retired CIA agent with a violent set of skills who unleashes them on the kidnappers who grab his vacationing daughter whilst on a trip to France. Directed by Pierre Morel, this is only his second film as director, though he has a long resume as a cinematographer on other french movies, and his complete technical mastery of this film is evident throughout.
Neeson's character spends the first portion of the tale standing idle and frustrated as his estranged ex-wife and her wealthy husband monopolize his daughter. Constantly accused of past sins of neglect, he is emotionally blackmailed into signing the legal permission that gives his 17 year old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) the ability to travel to Paris to "visit museums" along with a 19-year old friend. Bryan Mills (Neeson) arranges a variety of checks to keep his daughter in contact with him while she is traveling, but it all falls apart quickly when she is kidnapped by a gang of Albanian criminals who target young women traveling alone, drugging and placing them into brothels, or separating them out for auction to wealthy deviants.
Morel's film starts with a hurried tone that only gets quicker as the tale progresses, as Neeson is warned by old buddies within the CIA that his window of time to find his daughter is only 96 hours at best. Arriving in Paris, Neeson immediately tracks down an old acquaintance within French security to give him a quick brief on the Parisian criminal world, and with this knowledge he begins connecting the dots to find the Albanian gang.
The Cast of Taken
Neeson portrays the CIA retiree Bryan Mills as a cautious, unassuming man who is fruitlessly trying to reconnect to his daughter and make amends for long years absent while served the CIA overseas. Mills' only friends appear to be other retired 'spooks' who cajole him into freelance protection work for a pop singer (played by Holly Valance) and who come to his aid with information when he travels to Paris to search for his daughter.
Famke Janssen is Lenore, the bitter and hectoring ex-wife who won't let Mills forget for a moment his past absence and how much she now loathes him. Neeson's character puts up with the abuse with a stoic determination to outlast it if it will allow him to spend time with his daughter. It is only after Kim's disappearance that Mills will confront Lenore, and even then it is only to berate her for "living inside a bubble" and not taking the safety of their daughter seriously.
The French deputy director of internal security (played by Olivier Rabourdin) who at first helps Neeson's character, and then betrays him, is played as a mirrored, but distorted image of Bryan Mills. Jean-Claude is a dedicated family man somewhat like the retired Mills, but Jean-Claude is able to co-exist with the corruption and duplicity around himself because he has been worn down to almost a primal state of loyalty only to his family. Not a criminal himself, he is still willing to betray Mills when the hunt for the missing daughter has caused too much trouble and created too much publicity. The film seems to indicate that the Albanians could not operate as successfully as they do without French justice turning a blind eye, and that the inconvenience of criminality breeds indifference by those employed to oppose it.
A Compact Thriller
Hinted philosophy aside, the movie is not an innovation upon the genre, but is instead a compact thriller in a mold rarely seen in modern films which too often have bloated run-times and star performances that dominate whatever story is onscreen. That said, TAKEN is a superbly made chase-and-rescue movie that showcases the architecture and low-key laconic style of Liam Neeson as a quiet but dangerous man. Supporting cast is perfectly deployed to move the tale along, and director Morel keeps the story straightforward despite all the turns and twists that befits a 'detective story.'
Violent, containing several car chases, views of French police corruption, and the story is certainly no complement to Albanians, the movie is nonetheless a romantic story of a father's dedication to the protection of his daughter.
Writing credits for the film go to Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.
Original page May 2009
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