Reviewed by Emma Hughes
Directed by Pierre Morel, screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.
If you can suspend disbelief for two hours and you enjoy graphic violence, Taken is the film for you. Although it deals with heavy issues such as human trafficking, corruption and torture for the most part you won’t be required to engage your brain at all.
Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a retired CIA operative who has moved to Los Angeles to be closer to 17-year-old Kimmy (Maggie Grace), the daughter he was so often absent from in her childhood. His intense career has wreaked havoc with his personal life, in particular his marriage to Lenore (Famke Janssen) who has now found a more stable husband and father for Kimmy in Stuart (Xander Berkeley). When Kimmy pleads for her father to let her holiday in Paris with friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) he reluctantly consents subject to numerous strict guidelines.
Bryan’s worst fears are realised when Kimmy and Amanda are abducted by a human trafficking ring and his former colleague Jean Claude (Olivier Rabourdin) informs Mills that he has a 98 hour window in which to rescue them before they disappears into a black drug-induced hole.
The plot is epitomised in a small speech Bryan gives near the start of the film over the phone to his daughter’s kidnappers: '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 will be the end of it. I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.'
This is a revenge film where the lead character will stop at nothing to get his daughter back and to make all who are part of the syndicate pay with their lives. Bryan is a killing machine- shooting, stabbing, maiming and torturing all culprits with steely resolve. On the one hand it is easy to identify with his mission and the terror one would feel if they found out their daughter was being forced into sexual slavery. On the other, it is difficult to ignore the mounting pile of bodies and the innocent victims that are caught in the crossfire. Jean-Claude’s warning ‘try not to make a mess’ is far from heeded. Neeson does provide his character with an element of vulnerability and humanity that allows the audience to identify with his plight.
With a focus on the sex slave trade the film could have easily delved into the voyeuristic, yet it is remarkably restrained. Drugged victims are shown by the dozens, but there is little if any screen time of them being taken advantage of sexually. The worst element is the realization of how deep the roots of corruption reach and how once noble men are willing to sell their souls because their ‘income is in column x’ and their ‘lifestyle is in column y’. It is also clear that no matter who the clientele of the sordid trade is (construction workers or Arab oil barons) the same gut reaction of revulsion is induced.
Performances were strong on the whole; with Janssen doing well with the slight part she was given. Perhaps the best performance was by Olivier Rabourdin who was given a little more depth to play with. Grace was generally good in her role though it might be said she played the spoilt brat teenager a little too well so as to diminish sympathy for her when things go wrong. (Spoiler Alert) Whether it was poor direction or poor acting I’m not sure, but in the final scenes where Kimmy is saved and she returns to her mother it is as if she is coming home from a rock concert or a designer shopping spree in Paris. Her happy tears fail to convey the gravity of what she has experienced and generally lend to a weak sugar-coated ending. (End Spoiler Alert)
On the whole this film is fairly average, the only redeeming qualities are the practical and self-sacrificial love displayed by father towards daughter even after she has deceived him, the willingness of a father to make up for lost time by changing his life, and a pop star (Holly Valance) who is not completely self-obsessed.
I give this film 2.3 stars.