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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) 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.
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.
"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. I definitely look forward to revisiting this film, in its uncut form on DVD in the near future. Highly Recommended.
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