Taken (2008)

I have seen critics bring up many concerns about Taken.  The problem is trying to get a good grip on what is good and what is wrong with this movie means dealing with virtue signalers and their list of approved buzzwords and absolute fanboys who think this is the greatest action film ever.  I had heard about it and was surprised to find out how long ago it came out, although I have never actively avoided seeing it.  It was something that I would have ignored at the time because, while I love action films, few modern ones are worth seeing.  

I was also surprised to find out it was French and written by Luc Besson.  Besson's career hasn't been stellar for a long time as he directed a number of flops and, although I was an early fan with films such as La Femme Nikita and Leon, he pretty much lost me with The Fifth Element.  He also turned out to be more than a little bit of a creep, which is why I'm sure his name is back there in the writing credits while Pierre Morel took on the job of directing it.  

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a retired CIA operative who does occasional security work.  He quit his job to be closer to his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace).  She lives with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and her rich stepfather Stuart (Xander Berkeley).  Kim has just turned 17 and wants to go to France with her best friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy), but needs Bryan's permission to go.  He reluctantly signs a permission slip but gives her an international phone and a number of rules to follow to make sure she is safe.

Upon arriving in Paris they meet a man at the airport named Peter (Nicolas Giraud) who shares a cab with them back to where they are staying.  That is a mistake, because Peter is a spotter for a human trafficker named Marko (Arben Bajraktaraj).  Amanda and Kim are kidnaped, but not before Kim is able to give her father a description of Marko.  Bryan travels to Paris to find her, working his way up through the organization to rescue Kim, much to the displeasure of an old French colleague named Jean-Claude (Olivier Rabourdin) that has to clean up the mess Mills leaves behind.

Liam Neeson did not take the role of Bryan Mills to revitalize his career, although that is exactly what Taken did for him.  He took it because he was offered four months in Paris with the promise to learn martial arts and get paid for the whole thing.  He thought the now iconic speech he gives to Marko when Kim is kidnaped was cheesy and that the movie would be lucky to get released on the DVD market, much less make it to theaters.  Instead, it turned into an entire franchise although, despite what some comedians have proposed, it doesn't have to do with Kim getting repeatedly kidnaped. 

Pierre Morel only directed the first one, and his no-frills style helps move the story along.  There is no subtlety or real character development, but that also means there isn't a lot of fat either.  Maggie Grace and Katie Cassidy are a bit annoying, acting more like tweens than teens, but there isn't much time to dwell on that before the main plot gets rolling.  Morel definitely has an eye for action scenes and, no matter what he thought of the movie, Neeson didn't phone it in.  He always gives his all and this is no exception.

It is lucky, however, that it is a French film.  If this was an American production it would have had protests even in 2008.  Albanians are treated as barely human and, despite Mills busting up a human trafficking ring, he is laser focused on getting his daughter back.  He seems little concerned with the fate of all the other women.  I find that part to be realistic, but it is a bone of contention for detractors of the film, not understanding the futility and danger of mission creep.  It also fits in with his amoral outlook on achieving his goals, as he is more than willing to at least wound innocent people to get his way.  In a way his callousness is the most telling part and makes Lenore look less nasty the more one understands who Bryan really is. 

Not going out of the way to explain nuances that the writer and director believes audiences should get is one of the more typical French things about this movie.  Other than that it is atypically an escapist popcorn film, fulfilling the audience's desire to see a bunch of sleazy bad guys get what's coming even while wondering if we should as Luc Besson where on the doll the bad Albanian touched him at some point.  

Taken (2008)
Time: 90 minutes
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Olivier Rabourdin
Director: Pierre Morel



  1. That was funny I mentioned Taken this morning and this review posted in the afternoon. I agree it's fine for a popcorn movie and not much else. The sequel was even worse with him just rampaging around Turkey killing the other half of Albania he didn't kill in the first movie. But the first movie gave us a lot more Liam Neeson so it's not all bad.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)