Release Date: Jan. 30
Director: Pierre Morel
Writer: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Cinematographer: Michel Abramowicz
Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Xander Berkeley, Holly Valance
Studio/Run Time: Twentieth Century-Fox, 93 mins.
Taken doesn’t have
a plot so much as it does a premise.
Liam Neeson plays a retired spy trying to patch up a shaky history with his
When she flies off to Paris,
which for some reason needs his approval even though he’s in no way her legal
guardian, he receives a call that she and her friend have been kidnapped.
Neeson gets on the next plane and spends the
next two thirds of the movie in one long pursuit to find his daughter before
she’s forced into prostitution.
are certainly a few nuances in the characters and their relationship, almost
all of which occur in the film’s first act, but like everything else Luc Besson
has had a hand in, Taken
is about the action, not the writing.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing either, since this is clearly Pierre
Morel’s strength as a director. Fights
are fluid and realistic, with Neeson more than up to the task in his role as
the vengeful American father. But they’re
not original, and action sequences look and feel just like the Bourne
movies. The kinetic camera and furious
editing are something that’s been done better before and their impact is
waning. Taken’s few twists are telegraphed miles
ahead, turning the film into a series of set-pieces that are satisfying enough,
but rarely thrilling.
What keeps the film from being just another average action
flick is its reliance on fear-based manipulation. Taken feeds
on a fear of foreigners and features an America-knows-best attitude that would
have felt dated 20 years ago. Its emotional core is centered on inverting
an aging male’s fear of uselessness into a machismo fantasy of saving
a wrecked parental relationship through violence
—all of which is easy
to be sucked into but ultimately
At the film’s worst, Neeson’s
character acts as an analogue for America’s policies with terrorism abroad, at one point
actually torturing a prisoner he’s interrogating to death.
These moments are never questioned and despite his merciless
killings, Neeson plays the holier-than-thou protagonist from beginning to
end. The fights are occasionally
very cool, but it’s far easier to find another decent action movie to watch
than it is to sit through one couched in such lazy, bigoted storytelling.