The tagline of 'Taken" abridges the main character's simple declaration of intent to the man who has kidnapped his daughter and perfectly sums up the plot of the film, "I don't know who you are but if you don't let my daughter go, I will find you, I will kill you." "Taken" is a brisk 90 minute, action thriller steered by Liam Neeson's performance as ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills, who gave up a life of service to his country to try and keep a relationship with his daughter. Against his better judgment, Mill reluctantly agrees for his 17-year old daughter (Maggie Grace, "Lost") to be allowed to travel to Paris with a friend and soon after arriving the pair are kidnapped by human traffickers tied to organized crime. Mills has 96 hours to use his "set of skills" to track down his daughter before she is lost forever and anyone who gets in his way or is connected to her disappearance is liable to end up dead.
"Taken" doesn't attempt to be a deep character study, nor tell some underlying fable; it's an old school, man on a mission film. It awakens a visceral emotion in the viewer, we want to see Mills save his daughter and make those connected pay. Mills does not disappoint. The casting of Liam Neeson elevates "Taken" from a disposable action thriller for a number of reasons. Firstly, Neeson is not a small man, he stands 6'4" but is a normal looking man; secondly, Neeson is convincing with every line he delivers and every facial expression he makes. For the most part he's demanding information or delivering threats, but during the few quiet moments of the film, he is able to show the audience without words, the hurt inside his character, whether it's from the realization that he may never see his daughter alive again, or seeing up close other unfortunate girls who had no one to save them before it was too late.
Neeson's performance is a throwback to the old school. I was reminded heavily of Steve McQueen's, Doc McCoy in "The Getaway." While the characters are on opposite ends of the law, both can be charming, but at a moment's notice won't hesitate to assault or kill someone who may be holding out on them. Mills never preaches morality to his foes, he is dedicated to one purpose, finding his daughter, and if that means shooting men in the back, then so be it.
The action in "Taken" is very satisfying, largely consisting of close quarters combat and shootouts. It's well known Fox edited the film for a PG-13 rating, which has arguably been the driving factor behind it's $135,000,000+ box office take. Unfortunately, some of the cuts are sloppy and not only visibly apparent, but audibly. As the fights get more brutal, there are a few skips in the sound where impact shots have been trimmed. Thankfully, the biggest edit for violence was actually done through the re-filming of the entire scene. Still, the violence, combined with the intense elements of the plot, still make this a borderline 'R' film.
Thankfully, Fox has chosen on this DVD release to restore the original Unrated cut of the film. All the odd edits for violence are gone and restored is a much more brutal cut of the interrogation scene. This new cut show just how far Mills has been pushed and just how much further he is willing to go to save his daughter. This original cut doesn't feel gratuitous, but serves as a punctuation mark on the violence reality of the world Mills had left behind and is now forced back into. The PG-13 theatrical cut is preserved as well on the disc.
Taken is presented with an Anamorphic 2.35:1 Widescreen transfer. Unfortunately, Fox has once again chosen to send a single-layer screener copy so the transfer isn't reflective of final product quality. Should Fox provide a final product, then the review will be updated to reflect the proper quality.
Taken is presented with a 5.1 Dolby Digital English audio track. Again, this being a screener, disc things overall sounded flat, so an accurate rating of final quality cannot be given. Spanish and French Dolby Surround tracks, as well as English and Spanish subtitles are also featured.
Taken is available in two separate releases. A single disc barebones version with both cuts of the film, and a two disc version, with the following bonus features on disc one, and a second disc containing a digital copy of the film
The two biggest extras are dual commentary tracks. The first of which features Pierre Morel and cinematographers Michel Abramowicz and Michel Julienne. This is a French language commentary track but has English subtitles. It's a solid track that focuses on production, but also makes mention of casting. The casting of Neeson for his ability to be physically imposing as well as emotionally engaging is touched upon and further highlights his importance in the success of the film. The second track by writer Robert Mark Kamen focuses on his work on the film as well as his prior work with the producer. I found Kamen to be an interesting guy to listen to, but he's much better when he has someone else to chat with, as highlighted on the hilarious, commentary he did for 'The Karate Kid' SE DVD with the director, and two stars. It should be noted that these commentaries only play for the Unrated cut of the film.
There are three featurettes and a trailer for "Notorious" that round out the disc. The lengthiest featurette (around 20 minutes) is titled "Le Making Of" and gives a brief rundown of filming, complete with the expected talking head pieces. It's light fluff and passable, if you plan to listen to the commentary. "Avant Premiere" is a very brief video piece on the premiere of the film, while the last feature, shows a few of the film's standout action pieces with side-by-side shots of raw filming footage. This final feature is a very interesting as it shows just how much work goes from initial shooting to final product to make the action look as brutal as it does on screen.
"Taken" is easily, the most satisfying movie, I've seen in the theater this year. For those wanting a well made action film that is a good throwback to the take no prisoners film of decades past, but at the same time features an extremely competent lead, who takes his role seriously, "Taken" will be sure to entertain. Fans let down by the recent James Bond movie, may find some solace here, due to the lean, mean nature of the film. Highly Recommended.