wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)
A film which is now a favourite at DVD rental stores, Taken is a done to death story made into a very good action thriller where Liam Neeson, a former CIA agent goes on a rampage to retrieve his kidnapped daughter. Bone cracking action, splendid car chases and a rather interesting location to shoot a crime drama - Paris. By being thoroughly enjoyable while it lasts, this is escapist Hollywood fare which is believable. I saw this film after strong recommendations from my peers. They’re absolutely right.Read more
If you are an avid film buff, you wouldn’t buy or rent Taken’s DVD just by looking at its cover. It has a cryptic picture of Liam Neeson and a very blah line: “I don’t know who you are, but if you don’t let my daughter go, I will find you and kill you.” Deja vu? Precisely my point. It’s a very seen-that-heard-about premise: daughter gets kidnapped, daddy has to run all over the park to find her back. No wonder when it released, despite positive reviews, the film had a very poor start at the box-office. Nevertheless, thanks to word-of-mouth publicity, it achieved some level of success on DVD.
That’s more or less how I chanced upon the film - it’s theatrical release was a blink-and-miss. But strong recommendations from friends were forthcoming. I’m never been much of a Liam Neeson fan but this film has made me one. It’s clear that he’s a casting agent’s delight as far as thrillers are considered. And looking back, I’d probably have cast him in the film adaptations of the Dan Brown novels (The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons.)
Taken is pretty much what the DVD cover says it to be - Bryan Mills (Neeson), a father separated from his daughter and wife, will do everything he can to get her back when she gets kidnapped on an overseas holiday in France, with her girlfriend. There’s a catch here: the kidnappers do not want any ransom.
The film is racy, full of action, and wastes no time in verbosity. Mills is a former CIA agent and his pursuit of the kidnappers is fraught with little obstacles. On a lighter note, I wondered if the film-makers are suggesting that to nail down criminals, the world may not produce an Iron Man or Batman, but someone with an extensive career behind him in the CIA is equipped with all necessary skills - investigative, medical, physical and even flirtatious - to conquer all odds.
I was most impressed with how the screenplay trimmed each scene just at the right time. The fights are extremely well-shot. As a viewer, if you feel your arms getting a gentle involuntary jerk to punch the villians on screen, it is clear that the film has got your complete attention in a hypnotic way.
Another good reason why you may like Taken, and even empathise, or even get frightened by the context of the kidnapping is the manner in which it unfolds. I won’t be surprised if you remember Taken when you’re travelling to a new city and mull over a request from a stranger to share a taxi ride.
There’s a message somewhere. As a Facebook and Twitter civilisation, we’re witnessing the decline of barriers in trusting people. Taken doesn’t sermonise on this issue - it rather portrays this tension through Mills’ character who is shown to be a rather worrisome father. As a former CIA agent, he cannot trust people easily - he’s seen too much of the ugly side of governments, rebellious groups and white collar criminals. I’m glad the film-maker kept film free of any such monologues. Though, the ending was a little incomplete. By the way it concluded, it felt like the ending of a ‘Father’s Day’ film.
The true heroes of Taken are its direction and screenplay. Director Pierre Morel, known best as a cinematographer makes a formidable team with his writers Luc Besson (the Transporter series, the La Femme Nikita television series) and Robert Mark Kamen (the Karate Kid series, Gladiator, The Fifth Element) to put together a film that’s an edge-of-the-seat thriller in the true sense.
You need not prepare to watch this film. Just eject the DVD tray, load the film, get some popcorn and enjoy.
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