Liam Neeson stars in this action-packed international thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. When his estranged daughter is kidnapped in Paris, a former spy (Neeson) sets out to find her at any cost. Relying on his special skills, he tracks down the ruthless gang that abducted her and launches a one-man war to bring them to justice and rescue his daughter.
Famed French director/producer/writer Luc Besson once again takes the back seat and settled for a writer and producer credit in this sleeper hit Taken. Taking the helm is 13th District director Pierre Morel and also regular cinematographer for Besson’s Europa productions and what you get from these two is a straight-out, no-holds-barred action thriller.
Qui-Gon Jinn aka Liam Neeson plays Bryan, an ex-special forces personnel whose daughter is kidnapped by an Albanese gang of human trafficking while on vacation with her friend in Paris. Relying on his past operative skills and contacts, Bryan must use all sorts of unorthodox methods to get her daughter back before it’s too late.
With the exception of the first act to establish the estranged relationship between Bryan and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen) and their teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), the script by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen doesn’t allow the audience or the characters to breathe. Taken is like paying homage to all those great old Hollywood action thrillers which Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are famous for in the eighties. Adapting a stylistically violent approach and no-nonsense method to get things done according to the protagonist. Bryan in fact is like a modern-day Superman, he tortures, runs, jumps, crash into anyone who gets in his way for his only mission is to get back the daughter he never gets to bond with since she was young.
There’s no excessive gore or violence onscreen to bring its point across (though that will depend on your acceptance level). There are neither gratuitous sexual shots nor cumbersome subplots in Taken as the rest of the movie lies solely on the dynamic performance of one man – Liam Neeson. The lanky Irish actor puts in an amazing display of agility and credibility as the determined father. And according to Morel, Neeson indeed trains hard for all those hand-to-hand combat sequences seen onscreen. If you have to nitpick, I guess there are no memorable villains here just a whole lot of henchmen one after another.
Employing plenty of close-up shaky hand-held shots (think The Bourne Trilogy) but smartly abandoning the heavy usage of quick cuts and flashy MTV-style edits (Think Tony Scott), Taken works in lots of ways like a Hong Kong action flick on a good day. As compared to Hollywood who uses too much fancy camerawork and editing in recent times, the French sure know how to shoot car chases and choreograph action sequences considering Besson works with Jet Li in Kiss of the Dragon and Unleashed prior.
Though the story might seem too simplify (or illogical) for some, don’t brush this off just yet as Taken rightfully should satisfy those action-craving fans for a guaranteed heart-pounding 89 minutes. Note that this DVD uncut version while not exactly noteworthy contains additional scenes of torture and violence as compared to the theatrical cut.
Le Making Of – This 18 minutes feature includes interviews with Neeson, Grace and the director plus behind-the-scenes clips.
Avant Premiere – Footages come from the France premiere where Neeson attended together with his late wife, Producer/Writer Luc Besson and Director Pierre Morel.
Inside Action: Side By Side Comparisons – An 11 minutes special that compared the footages taken onset and the finished version for several key action sequences.
The visual transfer here is excellent and brimming with natural colours and even the darker scenes never appear underwhelming. The Dolby Digital 5.1 features crisp explosive gunshots and deep sounding bass, the perfect presentation for an action flick.
Review by Linus Tee
Posted on 3 July 2009