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What makes a good thriller? For me, there are three things a solid thriller must have:
If a film can muster up those three things, it has succeeded in my book. "Taken" comes to us from director Pierre Morel, co-written by the great Luc Besson. If you don't know Pierre Morel, you will. He directed an insane film entitled "District 13" and was the cinematographer for films such as "Unleashed" and "The Transporter". He has a keen eye for these types of films -- slick, polished thrillers with intricate plots and stories. Like Besson, Morel understands that the more we relate to the characters, the more tolerable the action scenes can be. "Unleashed" is a good comparison for this film. Like "Unleashed", "Taken" focuses on characters first, action second.
Liam Neeson stars as Bryan. We don't know what Bryan used to do exactly but we know he worked for the government, we know it was top secret and we know he's not someone to mess with. Bryan retired from his government post to move back and spend more time with his estranged daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Kim's mother (Famke Janssen) and stepfather (Xander Berkeley) tolerate Bryan, but don't really care for him that much. Reluctantly, Bryan agrees to let his daughter spend the Summer with a friend in Paris. Not more than two hours in the city, Kim informs her father than her friend is being abducted. Bryan informs his daughter that she is about to be next. Let the games begin. Very coldly and very seriously, Bryan explains to the man on the other end of the phone that he will track them down, find them and kill them. "Good Luck" is the response he receives.
This film is all about one man doing anything it takes to get his daughter back -- nothing more. Neeson plays Bryan like a man on a mission -- bullets can't stop him, hits the face can't stop him -- nothing can stop him. This kind of character seems far more dangerous than someone like Christopher Nolan's Batman. Neeson has the intensity needed for this kind of role and you believe every second of his anguish. There is one masterful scene where he is pretending to be a French official, until he hears the voice from the other end of the phone. The rest of this sequence and the following one are just incredible. There is another equally impressive scene where Neeson is at the home of one of his French acquaintances. I won't give anything else away. Just watch for that scene especially.
The last thirty-minutes of this film is non-stop action as Neeson barrels through countless assailants to find his daughter. But, this isn't the kind of action that seems so far fetched, with hundreds of bullets missing their marks and guns never running out of ammunition. This is more believable somehow and I don't know why. Maybe it's the way Neeson approaches the character that makes it work so well. Maybe it's the way we see this seedy underworld and can't really believe what we're seeing. Pierre Morel has created a fantastic film that never lets up and keeps you glued to the screen 100% of the time. Liam Neeson, much like in "Rob Roy", plays the ultimate bad ass. If this film were released in 2008, it would make my end of the year list.
Oh, and if you can't tell -- "Taken" meets all of the three requirements listed above. 10/10.
- added 01/04/2009, 08:00 PM
Neeson is almost 60, but he was very convincing
as the mean, son of a bitch who wasn't going to
let anything get between him and his daughter. I
wish it had stayed a little more serious instead
of having Neeson kill almost everyone, but it was
still very good. A very entertaining flick, no
- added 03/03/2009, 12:38 PM
This needed to be like 2 hours longer. By the
time I knew it, the movie was over. It really only
seemed like 20 minutes. Anywho, this movie was
awesome and I really want to see it again.
Definitely buying the DVD. 10/10
- added 05/17/2009, 04:16 PM
I found this flick to be almost entirely
by-the-numbers... and so, it never really
suspended my sense of disbelief in much of its
running time. There was never an instant when I
didn't doubt that he would be successful in his
endeavor... and I found no real tension in any of
the set piece moments in the story.
Neeson acquitted himself well for a man pushing
60 (ridiculous in this part and looking every inch
his age in many scenes), but so many opportunities
for real drama were optioned out for cheesy car
chase scenes and unlikely shoot-outs. I swear to
God... I've got to find some of those awesome
machine guns that those Albanian villains used...
able to fire continuously into a narrow corridor,
yet unable to even graze a stationary target!
They'd be great for high-caliber pranks....
I won't bother to comment on the
unsophisticated treatment of the subject matter or
the downright asinine final confrontation scene
with the films main antagonist... but suffice it
to say, this was a huge disappointment. I
expected more from Besson and gang... but what I
got was a straightforward brainless American
action film. Yawn...
Still, all that
being said, most the actors did their jobs well
and no one person was a weak link ( and every
Albanian looked suitably unshaven and seedy) save
a few unlikely accents within the bunch.
The best scene in the film took place in
the latter reel of the film at the French agent's
dinner table with his wife and the main
protagonist... if only the rest of the film took
this desperate, unpredictable path, it might have
been a fresher, more satisfying thrill-ride.
- added 07/20/2010, 09:43 PM
Neeson kicked some ass on this film and I also
agree with Greg on the dinner scene. 8/10
Rest Easy Soul
- added 07/27/2010, 10:46 AM
I give it a 7/10. Some of the stuff was so unreal
but satisfying. It's good the first 2 or 3 times
you watch it but after that it gets stale.