Written by: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Directed by: Pierre Morrel
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Xander Berkeley
I am of two minds about Pierre Morel’s Taken. I find it to be a sharp, stylish and immensely entertaining action thriller. I also find it to be strangely insensitive at times, boorish and typically American. Bryan Mills’ (Liam Neeson) daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) is kidnapped in Paris to be sold on the sex market. Those who kidnap her don’t realize they’ve got the daughter of a highly trained ex-CIA agent, Bryan goes looking for his daughter and is unstoppable on his quest.
What bothers me about this film is that the spark that ignites the plot is the black market sex trade. I feel like the reason for the kidnapping could have been almost anything, and that the film chooses such a specifically depraved and horrific issue is strange. That it is relatively ignored as an issue throughout the film is unsettling at best. Perhaps I am asking for too much, I recognize that a stylish action vehicle is hardly the arena in which to tackle to socio-political issues connected with sex trafficking, but as I watched Taken I couldn’t help but feel like that topic was an elephant in the room.
It may seem odd, but I want to recognise that Taken has a remarkably intense emotional core, despite the aforementioned issue. Mills is a very sad character, a man who has ruined his own life and is failing at connecting with his teenage daughter. The first 30 minutes of the film set up just how crumpled and tragic this character is, nothing works in his favour and he has a real sweetness that goes entirely unrewarded. This is a very effective set up that functions as believable motivation for the rest of the film. Once Mills begins his hunt, he never stops and as a viewer, one is truly engaged in his need to find his daughter.
The action in Taken is fantastic. I can’t emphasize just how non-stop Mills is once he begins. From the moment Kim tells him that someone has broken into her apartment, Mills doesn’t waste one second. He’s on a plane to Paris immediately, and has already done a trace on Kim’s captors. Mills mysterious past as a CIA agent proves useful as he launches a one-man assault on anyone who stands between him and his daughter. Neeson is unexpectedly great in this sort of role, and the emotional depth of the character is no doubt to his credit. Neeson has built a career on playing contemplative, powerful intellectuals but I suspect his career is about to take an interesting detour into this sort of sharp, Euro action thriller (as evidenced by Unknown).