Danny Westhorpe, 23, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

• Film Reviews » Taken
8/10

“They have taken his daughter. He will hunt them. He will find them. He will kill them.”

A lot of films fall into one of two categories. Films that you're supposed to take seriously and films that you're not. Taken definitely falls slap bang in the middle of the second category, despite trying hard at times to jump to the often more critically acclaimed first. The premise is plausible, at a stretch. The coincidences, often and many, and the large amount of bodies and bloodshed left in the films wake borders on the wrong side of likely.

So having glanced at the seven-star rating and then read the above paragraph, you're probably understandably confused. Complaint after complaint and yet a solid, above average score. The reason being is simple. Taken works. Despite it's flaws (of which there are many) the movie keeps you enthralled from start to finish and does what it does well, so much so that you find yourself caring less than less about the plot-holes and problems as the movie draws to its thrilling close.

The plot is enjoyable, although predictable from the start and never offers much more than brainless objective, one after another. Liam Neeson stars as Bryan Mills a former CIA agent who's got brains, brawn and balls. He's also got problems though, specifically with his daughter and ex-wife. After fifteen minutes of introducing characters (including the previously mentioned daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), the ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and her new husband Stuart (Xander Berkeley)) the film starts to pick-up and Bryan's impressive skills are first shown.

Not long after the plot begins to take shape. Kim and a friend are kidnapped whilst on holiday and Neeson has his work cut out for him trying to track down his beloved daughter and save her from a forced life of prostitution, drugs and corruption. And so begins the endless hunting, killing and general action cliches that make up the last two thirds of Taken.

Liam Neeson rarely disappoints and usually excels in films, acting-wise, regardless of the films overall quality.
Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen play Neeson's daughter and ex-wife. Both are ok, despite short screen-time.

One of the reasons the film works so well is Neeson. The Irishman gets the mix between tough-guy and genius just right and creates a hugely likeable character from the word go. On paper he may have seemed like a strange choice for this role but quickly dispels any doubts with his blend of calmness combined with aggression and past expertise. Bryan Mills launches a one man war against an army of unlikeable thugs, and at no point throughout the film do you think he shouldn't, wouldn't or couldn't dispatch of them with so much ease.

The supporting cast are fine, although at no point do any of them get much screen time. The film is Neeson's from the start and the rest of the cast are simply there to be saved or slaughtered. Maggie Grace puts in a decent showing as the damsel in distress but because of the nature of the film, she's necessarily missing most of it. There are a couple of scenes at the beginning though where she shows her worth and works well with Neeson. The two look very convincing as father and daughter and Grace's feelings of love together with years of let downs and disappointment are clear.

Famke Janssen and Xander Berkeley appear briefly as well and although they don't do anything overly wrong, their limited screen time stops the viewer from caring too much about them. Their just “there”, is all. That's about it for the principal cast, apart from the never-ending stream of bad guys. While they've all got the look of characters the audience is supposed to hate, their hardly on screen long enough to have much of an effect and Neeson usually kills or KO's them before we so much as learn a name.

The effects are well-done, with every decapitation striking the balance between authentic and cool. Neeson also looks more drained and bruised as the film goes on, adding at least a little realism to the farce. He doesn't however appear weaker or damaged with the passing of time and still manages to kill the fiftieth henchman with as much vigour and attitude as the first.

Although most the scenes in Taken revolve around the same formulae of punch, kick, stab, shoot, there are a few that deviate from it slightly. Bryan Mills proves that he's a decent driver as well as a full on killing machine with a couple of excellent car chase scenes. While most of the kills are over in a second or two the chase scenes play out for a lot longer and add a huge change of pace to the film. While you feel that Neeson's invincible in one on one fights, he looks much more human when behind the wheel and there's a much needed flicker of doubt planted in the viewers mind that things just might not go to plan this time round. It's a wise move by the guys behind Taken and adds a rare amount of vulnerability to Neeson's character.

The action in Taken is constant and enjoyable, and more than makes up for the weak and predictable plot.
"You don't remember me? We spoke on the phone two days ago. I told you I would find you."

As discussed at the start of this review, the film has problems galore. Coincidences in movies are common, but Taken has so many “scraps of good luck” that you begin to let your attention wander from the action and start wondering what the odds are of him finding that one right guy at the right time, or hearing just the right piece of information at that particular crucial moment. We see from the start that Bryan Mills is good at what he does but there's being good, and then there's being luckier than the offspring of a four-leaf clover and a horseshoe.

The films music is also a let-down. You'd expect a film of this calibre to boast a dramatic and suspenseful soundtrack with heavy bass complimenting the action and quiet, slow beats accompanying the stealth scenes. Instead we get some sort of middle-ground, generic music that barely changes for the entire ride. While the average viewer will be able to look past the “surely he wouldn't survive that” question that pops up in scene after scene, the films score should have been a much better fit for the film and is the single biggest negative point of Taken.

If you're looking for a serious film, ignore and move on. If you're looking for a thrill a minute ride that doesn't let fact get in the way of fictitious entertainment, watch and enjoy. If you're looking for something in the middle of the two then Taken should still be right up your street. Liam Neeson's presence separate this film from “mindless action” and instead show the desperation a man will tap into if you hurt those closest to him. Bryan Mills isn't killing for fun or killing because he enjoys it. He's killing because his victims have taken the thing he cares for most in the world. They've made her a victim and in turn, they've become his victims.

Copyright © Danny Westhorpe, 2014. All rights reserved.
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