Review: Taken

Taken (2008)
91 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Pierre Morel
Starring:  Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen


Grade:  B

In a recent conversation with a small group of friends, we discussed the lack of memorable action flicks in the past decade.  Of course, The Bourne Trilogy came to mind as the superior while other films like The Boondock Saints and the Kill Bill movies were thrown in the same sentence.  But the truth of the matter was that there simply aren’t that many action films that have stood out in recent memory.  What happened to the era of Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Terminator, Aliens, and Commando (all within a decade)?

Instead, we’ve had over-the-top action films that reach levels of ridiculousness such as Shoot’Em Up and Crank.  Not that those films weren’t enjoyable from maximizing every aspect of the action as possible, but I’d prefer the hero facing grand odds and defeating the mastermind villain.  There’s just more of a pay-off to be rooting for someone with a motive rather than rooting for explosions.

This brings us to Taken, an action film that really packs its punch at a neck-breaking pace.  Bryan Mills (Neeson) is our hero – the former CIA agent who had spent his life defending the country at his family’s expense.  His absence from his family’s life resulted in a divorce and a distant relationship between him and his daughter.  He quit the force and moved near his former family to reconcile with his daughter, Kim.  When she goes on a trip to Paris with her best friend, they both get kidnapped by a group of Albanians who traffic women.  Mills is immediately on the case.

Let’s get one thing straight about Mills.  He’s a one-man wrecking crew.  He’s a master of every skill he needs to track down and rescue his daughter.  He has connections, pitch-perfect hearing, hits a bull’s eye on every shot, and his hand-to-hand combat is as good as Neo’s in The Matrix.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say this movie ends happily, because Taken is essentially just an action film.  It follows the traditional action-formula right down the line, which makes the viewing experience quite predictable.  This is probably the biggest downfall of the movie.  Although the sequences are fast, loud, and pumping testosterone, in the end it still falls short of the best entertaining element: surprise.

Taken might not be an action flick that I’ll remember ten years from now, but for the time being it’s one of the past years’ best.  Though I had no doubt Mills would save his daughter, I was still rooting for him to complete the task.  At an hour and a half, Taken flew by with ease.  Now people can have the action hero discussion:  Who would win in a fight, Jason Bourne or Bryan Mills?


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