Sep 7, 2012

[Movies] Taken (2008)

It's quirky how I never thought of watching this movie when it first came out and yet all it took was an internet meme to get me a heck of a lot more curious about it. And I finally rectified this bucket list item somewhat recently. So sue me, even this geek can watch only so many movies over the course of a lifetime, so I still need to prioritize as best as I can.

I guess it stood outside my primary focus areas for movies since it seemed like just another action movie, or something like that. And as much as I respect Liam Neeson as an actor, you have to admit that he ends up in some rather quirky movies at times that make you question his tastes or at least the priorities of his agent.

But this turned out to be a rather surprising movie in terms of its relative complexity and depth. Or maybe we can just celebrate the fact that it's all about creating one heck of a kickass character that totally deserves a whole movie just about him. And that's ultimately what this is and what makes this movie a lot of simple yet brutally efficient fun.


Synopsis: Taken is a 2008 French action movie directed by Luc Besson. Besson also wrote the screenplay for the movie together with Robert Mark Kamen.

Here Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a former CIA operative who is now struggling to live a normal life. He is divorced from his wife and thus experiences a lot of challenges in terms of trying to maintain a relationship with his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). Outside of that, Bryan makes a living by performing odd security jobs such as protecting a pop singer at her concert.

Things change when Kim manages to convince Bryan and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) to allow her to go to Paris with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy). Despite some deceptions about the true purpose of the trip, the girls manage to push through with their little adventure. Upon arriving at the airport the encounter a charming young man who offers to share a cab with them in order to save on fare. What they were not aware of is that he was actually part of a crime ring that regularly kidnaps tourists and turns them into sex slaves. And while Kim manages to get her father on the phone just as the kidnapping has begun, he uses what little information he can glean from the incident to start on the trail to rescue her.

The movie is most known for this bit of dialog that Neeson delivers to one of the kidnappers that had discovered Kim's phone:
"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you. "
And that one line truly defines what a potentially dangerous character Neeson represents in this movie and thus the reason it has become the subject of so many internet memes since the movie's release. And it certainly helps set the stage for why the warm and loving father that we see Bryan to be in the beginning of the movie is actually a lethal killing machine who will go to the ends of the earth to save his daughter.

It's interesting how many people cite this movie as a key point in Neeson's career that marks when his action movie career really took off more. But at the same time, I can't help but go all the way to back to Darkman and always enjoy the dark hero he was there. We can forgive all the quirky sequels that followed without Neeson's involvement for the most part though.

The movie certain presents some intense action once the kidnap situation take place. And it's pretty scarily intense how Bryan Mills goes from goon to goon as he follows the trail of his daughter's disappearance. It begs the question of what exactly his role was back in the CIA given the wide arrange of skills he seems to have. One cannot help but speculate that his work involves more black ops type of activities that take place in the shadows and outside official records.

Tobie compares this movie to how a one-shot RPG session might be like with Neeson's role as the player character. And I totally get that analogy given how some of our RPG sessions have gone. Player characters will always think of some of the craziest decisions in order to get out of difficult situations, often skirting dangerously close to the edge from a morality perspective. But as scary it seems when taken in the context of real life, it does make for a very fun movie.

Taken is a great action piece. The plot isn't overly complicated and the fight scenes are great. And while there's a bit of a comment on human trafficking in Europe, it doesn't really dwell on that too much. Bryan just wants to save his daughter and that's all that matters. Thus the movie rates an enjoyable 4 seemingly callous and unnecessary deaths out of a possible 5.


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