Thursday Night Movie Club
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Release Date: January 30, 2009

Director: Pierre Morel
Liam Neeson
Famke Janssen
Maggie Grace
Katie Cassidy
Leland Orser
Olivier Rabourdin
Bryan Mills
Taken poster Taken poster Taken poster
Liam Neeson in Taken A standard action flick takes a different turn with Liam Neeson taking on the role of the avenging father. He has the look and especially the voice to pull this off. Neeson doesn't seem the type, on the surface, but it is what lurks beneath the mask of normalcy that clicks here.

Bryan Mills (Neeson) is a secretive man. His family knows he works for the U.S. Government, but they do not know exactly what it is that he does. Mills is also a very concientious father. He makes sure he is home to celebrate his daughter's birthdays, every year. Of course, Mills' job has strained his relationship with his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). As such, the movie plods through the first 30 minutes setting up the rest of the film.

The conflict starts when Mills' daughter Kim wants to take a spring break vacation to Paris with a friend. Mills, knowing how dangerous the world really is, is against this idea. He relents only after trying his best to protect his daughter, buying her universal cell phones and making her promise to call him daily.

It wouldn't be much of a movie if the vacation went according to plan. Kim's friend, Amanda, lies to her. They are supposed to be staying in an apartment full of acquaintances. The apartment is empty. They befriend a stanger at the airport who offers to share their taxi. The girls accept his offer. The stranger is basically a sexual predator, looking for targets to kidnap.

Maggie Grace as Kim in TakenOnly in a movie "timing is everything". Mills just happens to be talking to Kim when the kidnapping occurs. At this point, the movie really begins. As Kim is being taken, Mills' training comes into play. He asks her to describe everything, no matter how small. Mills records the conversation for later desemination. The scene ends with a warning from Mills, "I have special skills. I will find you and I will kill you." The kidnapper makes the "Ebert School of Bad Guys mistake". He responds, "Good luck."

So far, this review has depicted the slow opening 30 minutes. What follows is an interesting cat and mouse caper. Mills uses all of his training to trace the elements of the kidnapping. He methodically retraces his daughter's steps from the cell phone conversation, gathering clues as he goes. Normally, this depiction wouldn't work, or it would seem hokey, but Neeson is just good enough of an actor to pull it off.

The next interesting sequence comes as Mills confronts the Bulgarians who have taken his daughter. As he moves through the apartment, he makes mental notes of how many adversaries are in the house and where they are located. Mills is posing as a corrupt police officer looking for a payoff. Once the negotiations are over, Mills hands the gang a note that he cannot translate. The note says, "Good luck." What are the odds that out of all the men in the room, the note ends up in the hands of the same man who spoke to Mills on the phone earlier. Mills responds, "We spoke on the phone a few days ago. I told you I would find you and kill you."

It's only a movie, but still... it works cinematically. The violent resolution to the Photo from Takenconfrontation visually borrows a quote from Dashiell Hammett, "People keep giving me guns.", as Mills takes down the Bulgarians, picking up discarded guns along the way.

This is another money-maker from French producer Luc Besson (Transporter). The movie has its moments for action and violence. The film shows why Mills is so intent on keeping his family together, protecting them. But it is very empty on the emotional level. There is no chemistry between Mills and Lenore, hence their break up. There isn't much emotionally evident between Mills and Kim. If there is any point to be taken from this movie it is that spies should not raise familes.

Taken is a movie to see at a bargain matinee or a rental. Nothing more, nothing less. It could have been better. This movie has been done before. Why not take a chance and make it more emotionally involving rather than a simple action movie?