Director: Pierre Morel
Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
There is a moral lesson at the end of this action film: don't mess with the daughter of a man who has no limits to what he does.
Taken (not to be confused with the sci-fi miniseries by Steven Spielberg) stars Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills, a former government spy who tries to reconnect with his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), who is now under the care of his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and her new husband Stuart (Xander Berkeley). His job cost him his marriage, so he has retired to spend more time with his daughter, even though Lenore isn't keen on the idea.
One day, Kim asks for Bryan's permission to follow a friend to Paris on vacation. Bryan is reluctant, but finally agrees. Trouble begins when Kim and her friend get kidnapped by a prostitution ring shortly after they arrive. Now Bryan has to put all his skills as a spy into play to save his daughter.
And here's where the action takes off. What I like about it is that it doesn't waste time with non-essential drama. If you look at the Bourne films, you'll notice all the time it takes to explore Bourne's psyche, to explain his motivation as well as the villains' reasons for their actions. Here, it's relatively simple. A father, enraged with a tragedy that befalls his daughter, flies to a foreign country and wastes no time tearing it down to find her. It doesn't bother too much with his estranged and distanced connections with his ex-wife, or his daughter. It does take a few moments to display the determination in Bryan's character as he follows one lead after another after another to get to Kim, and that is enough.
Director Pierre Morel, relatively new to directing (he was mostly a cinematographer prior to this), does a splendid job in keeping the pace tight, so there is nary a dull moment in the film. Even the actors he chose, from Neeson to the supporting cast of near faceless bad guys are spot on. Neeson for one is an awesome choice in casting. He finally gets to be the main protagonist instead of always being a mentor, and boy does he deliver. He excels in the fight scenes, and as one reviewer puts it, gets to be Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne, John McClane and The Transporter's Frank Martin all in one film. I totally respect the guy now, especially when he uses all kinds of tactics to get information, including shooting a friend's wife in the arm!
Maggie Grace on the other hand gets to play the annoying 17 year old Kim, when in reality she is 25. But that's OK, Grace has her youthful looks as an advantage, and she puts it to good use here. Janssen has very little to do here other than cry and be the distraught mother. I miss seeing her as Jean Grey.
As for the action...man it is awesome and brutal and totally in-your-face. It's not as violent as Watchmen, but it doesn't have to be. It's the kind of action you'd expect if you've seen The Transporter films, since Taken was written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. You'll see lots of hand-to-hand combat, gunfire and a couple of edge-of-your-seat car chases. All well executed.
This is one film to put next to The Patriot for extreme Father's Day films. And I mean that in a good way. Go see this. Really. (4/5)