Monday, June 13, 2011

Taken (2008)

Liam Neeson: Action Hero

- When it comes to action flicks - I like them exciting but also substance filled. Taken (2008) certainly achieves a good mix of the awesome and the thoughtful, more than most action films but maybe not to the same extent or level of quality as the greats of the genre.

Liam Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, a former CIA agent who has left the service in hopes to better his relationship with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). Bryan has tried to be there for his family from the very the beginning but, because of the nature of his job, he was often sent half-way around the world to protect the United States. All too often and for far too long, Bryan was not around when he was needed the most and it ended up destroying his family. Kim is now a seventeen-year old living with her mother and rich as sin step-father, busy with friends and busy being a spoiled princess - all of which makes it more difficult for Bryan to rekindle their relationship.

Suddenly, Kim offers Bryan an olive branch: a lunch meeting, just the two of them. Bryan's hope is quickly crushed when Kim arrives with her mother, Lenore (Famke Janssen), and the two of them try to talk Bryan into letting Kim go to France with a friend. Bryan is not receptive to the plan, thinking that two teenaged girls walking around France by themselves is a bad idea, but eventually gives in to Kim's request, guilted into submission. Kim should have listened to her old man however, as Albanian white slave runners kidnap her and her friend. But Bryan has a trick up his sleeve: his CIA skills. With only a short window between Kim's kidnapping and her future sale as a sex slave, when it would be next to impossible to track her down, Bryan flies to France to find his daughter and punish those who have taken her.

The story and dialogue is basic material found in your average action/revenge flick, but it is actor Liam Neeson who elevates Taken past the "average" marker. The Oscar-nominated Neeson is obviously too good for the material, delivering a solid individual performance that makes the whole movie and even strengthens much of the film's frequent mediocre moments. Neeson's Bryan Mills character is a hybrid between Jack Bauer and Jack Carter; he is a generally nice guy who even manages to help people throughout the film but his CIA background and blinding drive to rescue his daughter also makes him a very ruthless man who is just as willing to hurt anyone who gets in his way. Neeson is easily the strongest aspect of Taken, taking the character to heights that few other actors could.

Taken features a terrific lead Liam Neeson performance but even when taking Neeson out of the equation it is a simply a very well-made and enjoyable action film all-around. Directed by Pierre Morel (From Paris With Love (2010)) and written by Luc Besson (Leon (1994), The Fifth Element (1997)), Taken may be bookended by some of the most bordering-on-unbearable gushy melodrama ever seen in modern movies but it certainly does have a very fast pace, a lot of slick action, and tons of suspense for the vast majority of the film's runtime.
Taken would be a throw-away action film, albeit an enjoyable one, if its list of positives ended here. However, Taken has more to offer than most modern action films. On top of featuring the dimensional Liam Neeson anti-hero character throughout, Taken holds plenty of heart through its featured family dynamic while also bringing the very real white slavery trafficking problem to top world-wide box office attention.

When all is said and done, Taken is tough and highly entertaining stuff with a bit of depth to boot. 'Nuff said.

CBC Rating: 8/10

No comments: