Saturday, January 31, 2009
Taken does not venture into unchartered territory. The premise has been done in Hollywood more than once. You have a typical highly trained father whose child is abducted by bad characters. The film Ransom came to mind in terms of similar films. Takenelevates this concept to a whole new level. CIA operatives, international espionage and a high stakes multi-national slave trade market increase the stakes in this interesting film.
Takenbegins with a retired CIA agent (Bryan Mills, played by Liam Neeson), who has moved to California to be closer to his daughter. The backstory of Neeson's strained relationship with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) is captured through Mills' recollections of past birthdays. Mills wants to reconnect with his daughter, but the amount of time the CIA kept him away from his family makes him more of a signatory than a father. Reluctantly, Neeson agrees to sign a release to allow Kim (who is seventeen) to travel to Europe with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy). The only condition is that Kim bring along a cell phone and check in regularly with her father.
Upon arriving in France, Amanda and Kim are met at the taxi stand by Peter (Nicolaus Giraud) who is actually a scout for an Albanian sex slave ring operating in Paris. Peter shares a cab to the girl's address in Paris, providing the information to the Albanians. The sex slave traders shortly arrive at the location and kidnap the girls. Kim manages to get a quick call out to Mills, who quickly kicks into CIA mode. Mills uses his extensive contacts to begin tracking down the abductors, leaving a trail of carnage and destruction in his wake. It is a race against time as Mills attempts to react within the 96 hour window his CIA contacts advise he has to respond.
Takenrequires suspension of all belief. If you go into this film expecting anything remotely resembling reality you will be disappointed. This is a big Hollywood film replete with massive explosions and unlimited firepower. Given the exaggerated nature of the film, the writing is more a product of inter-personal relationships, dialogue and character development. The character development was a mixed bag, with Mills' character exhibiting the most depth. I was surprised at some of the actions taken by Mills during the film, but those actions did not contradict the personality traits assigned to this character. Lenore was a bit flat and predictable. As with most films of this nature, the bad guys were also one-dimensional. The relationships between the characters were plausible, creating the right set of circumstances to make the plot concept work. The dialogue was hackneyed at times, but enjoyable nonetheless. As a whole, the writing was mixed. Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen took an interesting concept and developed a workable script that was entertaining if nothing else.
Selecting Liam Neeson for the starring role was a good choice. Neeson brings an intensity to his performance that makes him credible as an enraged father with the deadly skills needed to create complete and utter chaos throughout Paris. Neeson's performance was brilliant. He was fun to watch. Lenore was a flat character, the depth that was visible in this character was a product of the acting skills of Famke Janssen. Her performance made a mediocre character better. The cast was made up of many smaller parts, with Neeson carrying the major role. These smaller parts had little opportunity to shine (or fail as the case may be). One noteworthy actor in a minor role was Olivier Rabourdin as Jean Claude Pitrel of French Intelligence. As a whole, the acting was excellent.
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