Saturday, August 18, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: Taken (Morel, 2008)

In 2008, the French film Taken, produced by France's international action movie great Luc Besson, was released. My best friend and I were dragged by my mother, who was showing my sister Coraline, to the theater. At the time, neither my friend nor I was in any mood to see it, so we opted for Taken instead. We liked it a lot, we thought it was exciting, non-stop, pulse accelerating action, but neither of us saw it as the phenomenon it would've become.

Now, we're in 2012. To my surprise, yet appreciation since I thought it was worthy of it, Taken is set alongside the Bourne trilogy as a modern action classic. Liam Neeson has entered a new phase in his career where he is the default aged and worn action hero, taking up starring roles in The A-Team, The Grey and Unknown.

 The story follows Bryan Mills, a former CIA operative who had retired from missions sometime prior to the beginning of the film. He struggles to retain a relationship with his daughter but ex-wife Lenore (Famke Jannsen) is apprehensive towards him at any attempt. When the daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), requests a chance to go to Paris with her friend (which only turns out to be half the story), Bryan has to be coaxed into letting his daughter travel. Less than an afternoon after the two girls arrive, however, they are kidnapped and Bryan takes charge into rescuing them.

From this point on, it's a mix between espionage thriller and brawling movie action with the occasional vehicular or building damage. Few words are exchanged that are not for the sake of building tension to the next bit of harm Mills invokes on the lives of everybody involved with his daughter's kidnapping.

In terms of Mills' character arc, it's not there though. The violence and intelligence he displays is not an outright surprise, due to an earlier scene in America where he bodyguards for a pop star. We know he cares about  his daughter from his attempting to feed her dream as a singer, buying her a cheap but thoughtful karaoke machine for her birthday and then asking the afore-mentioned pop star for any help in how she can reach that goal. He's also pretty uncomfortable with anything that is not 100 percent safe, like his daughter's trip, at points trying to negotiate with her for his unseen chaperoning. But, by the end of the movie, he does not change as a character, largely because he was right the whole time. He's still exactly who he is in the beginning.

The movie's story also does not help from portraying both women in Bryan's life as incredibly flawed. Kim is really superficial and Lenore is antagonistic for all the wrong reasons. It's hard for me to see Bryan spending his life trying to reconnect with them, but then again, maybe I'm not a father or a husband.

Now, since the story is laid to bed, the action is not spectacular or technical enough for the movie to ride on along with Neeson's scary in-your-face manner on the screen, but it does reel the audience in along with the nonstop tone that partners up with every fistfight or shootout Mills engages in. So, despite its apparent flaws I can't say I did not enjoy Taken, because I certainly did. I'd be glad to watch it whenever I'm bored. It does that to me.

And one cannot deny it brings up an important question on safety, on the underground sex trade and the circumstances behind it (kidnapping, bribery and the like) and on street-level crime that always evades the eye of bureaucracy. Doesn't delve too deeply into the matter without going into the melodramatic or mafia-esque portrayals, but it's enough to bring the issues into the public eye like few other movies could.

All said and done, I give it a 7.5/10. Styled movie that, once you can endure the moments until the kidnapping that bring Mills into action, keep you from switching it off until he gets his daughter back.

Yea, I'm gonna see the sequel when it comes out.

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