Taken (2008)

Writer Luc Besson of The Fifth Element, Leon and Transporter here turns his talents to writing an unusual film which was somewhat difficult for me to review properly, having had a considerable lack of desire to watch it in the first place. When I saw the trailer at the cinema way back in 2008, there was nothing on show that made it in the slightest bit desirable to see. Liam Neeson is the father on the trail of the kidnappers of his age-defying daughter Maggie Grace, here playing a 17 year old (she’s nearly 10 years older and it’s obvious). The trailer showcased Neeson’s ability to portray “rather annoyed and angry”, but perhaps his everyman qualities did his delivery of an incredibly risky threat to the kidnappers a real disservice and as such I watched the rest of the trailer wondering how bad it could truly get.

So, Maggie Grace turns 17 (<confused face>) and her dad Neeson buys her a Karaoke machine. Not bad, until you consider her now remarried mother Famke Janssen’s new husband has surprised her with a horse – which should tell you exactly where Neeson lies financially. He’s also an ex-incredibly-good-with-a-gun man, and as such takes the occasional job with his previous “team” in the protection business. In this film we see him looking after singer Holly Valance (by another name) of whom his daughter is a huge fan; during the night we see his incredible skills come to the fore when she is lunged at by a man with a knife. We are now aptly aware of his abilities as they will no doubt become subsequently useful later in the film. Then, step in the daughter who requires his consent to leave the USA to take a trip to France with a friend – obviously dubious, he lets her go provided she keep in contact at almost all times. Off they fly from the airport, get chatty with a guy upon landing in Paris and then are quickly snapped up by what seems to be human traffickers from the empty (-of-expected-relatives) house in which they are to stay. The problem is, Neeson is on the other end of the phone as it’s happening, guiding Grace through the ordeal until the kidnappers pick up the hidden phone and the ultimatum of “do it and die” is uttered by Neeson. Thus follows a pursuit through a busy Paris with much carnage in tow.

Besson doesn’t direct this film, so it’s best not to expect the wacky visuals or smooth chases we’ve come to expect from him. Yet, the film plays out well and is well thought out with no unexpected developments or misplaced revelations part way through. Neeson was perhaps a tad too normal for me in 2008 to play such a role, though having now seen The A-Team and his portrayal of Hannibal I’m more ready to accept him as this kind of action star (Star Wars doesn’t count). Seeing the possibly seedy side of Paris is certainly interesting, and it serves only as a setting not as a key plot point so don’t expect stunning visuals of any famous landmarks at any point. Given that I watched the special cut of the film on DVD, I’m not sure how it differed from the theatrical release but I can recommend that if you haven’t seen either then it is certainly worth watching this version if you can.

Taken (2008) frame

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