It sent chills up our spines when we heard it on the previews, and it has no less affect on audiences in the theater. A word of advice: When you’re handing over your hard-earned cash for overpriced popcorn and soda, go ahead and hand them your brain. You surely won’t need it for this film. In fact, over-thinking this one will impede and potentially ruin its entertainment value. So just sit back, let your eyes roll around in your head and let your mouth flop open, and let the dribble flow freely from its greasy corners. It’s OK to be mindless every now and then.
Bryan Mills (Neeson) is an ex-CIA agent, retired in order to move closer to his 17-year-old daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Bryan missed out on her childhood, and is determined to make it up to her. But as soon as the boxes are unpacked, Kim approaches dad with an international travel permission form for him to sign — she wants to go with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) to Paris for the summer. They are actually going to follow rock band U2’s summer tour, but world-weary-paranoid dad cannot know this, else he would never agree to it.
The plane lands and a taxi delivers them to their flat, and before the giggly girls can even use the toilette they are kidnapped. Kim hides under the bed per the instructions of her father at the other end of her cell phone, and is taken. As the perpetrators drag her kicking and screaming, she yells out physical descriptions of them over the cell phone dropped under the bed. “Black boots, beard, tattoos on hands!”
And now, it’s on. Bad Bad Leroy Brown may have been the baddest man in the whole town, but that was before we knew about Liam.
Dad is in Paris and off the plane and running out of time. He has learned that Kim and Amanda are victims of a thriving and lucrative Albanian sex trade, an underground organization that snatches beautiful young girls, drugs them, and sells them into prostitution. He only has 96 hours to find his daughter before she will never be seen again.
And it’s just as simple as that. Bryan tears through Paris leaving a swath of bad guys, one by miserable one, until he reaches the guilty captors. He does it ruthlessly, masterfully, and convincingly. (Remember, no thinking allowed.) He shatters tracheas with one pop of his hand, tortures and electrocutes without remorse, and mows down the malicious like a malfunctioning Husqvarna. The bad guys never stood a chance.
And you know what? I like that. There is a sense of confidence exuding from Neeson that convinces us that all will end well. There is no agony or twisting of the soul, just a gentle knowing that the good guys are going to win, and that they’re going to win easily. Just a sense that if something goes wrong, it will be righted. No waiting, no plotting, no worrying. Sort of like holding your own dad’s hand as a child. You could be in the middle of a maniacal melee, but with dad there, it’ll be all right. You could be swimming in a sea full of sharks, but with dad there, you’ll be safe. Of course, it helps when dad has a background in CIA intelligence and martial arts fighting.
I only have two bones to pick with this film. First is actress Maggie Grace. She plays a 17-year-old, but acts like she’s 7. She jumps up and down and hugs “daddy” like he’s Justin Timberlake, when we all know she should be rolling her eyes and smacking her gum and wearing inappropriate clothing. Secondly, there are parts of “Taken” where director Pierre Morel tries a little too hard to avoid the inevitable Bourne/Bond comparison. I’ll let you determine those for yourselves, but I’ve always been an advocate for calling a spade a spade. Don’t color a red apple orange. “It is what it is,” states the overused cliché, and Bryan Mills is another Jason Bourne and James Bond. Don’t fight it.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language, and running at 93 minutes, “Taken” is another thrilling ride on the same roller coaster that you’ve ridden before. Still, some things never get old. “Taken” gets 3 1/2 bags of popcorn.
— Sig line needed