Directed by: Pierre Morel
Premise: The teenage daughter of a former spy (Liam Neeson) is kidnapped while vacationing in Paris. He uses his skills to try and find her before it’s too late.
What Works: Taken is a very tight thriller. The film spends just the right amount of time on the setup, establishing the relationship between Liam Neeson’s character, Bryan Mills, and his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and between Mills and his daughter (Maggie Grace). After the kidnapping, the story moves along briskly, covering all the relevant details of Mills’ investigation and using them to push the story along. Taken never gets bogged down in details and yet covers enough exposition and detective work to keep the story credible throughout the second act. This allows the film to maintain an effective level of tension while Mills investigates the abduction. The action takes cues from The Bourne Identity and Casino Royale, keeping the fist fighting and the technology credible, which keeps the film believable.
What Doesn’t: The ending of Taken is problematic. The climax goes further with the action scenes and makes them more like Die Hard, which is inconsistent with the action earlier in the film. In the finale, the tone gets too lighthearted and actress Maggie Grace does not convey the trauma that her character ought to carry with her after the experience of being kidnapped.
Bottom Line: Taken is a very good thriller. By rooting its story in a family drama and a father’s attempt to reconnect with his daughter, the film establishes a solid foundation while it delivers action and suspense.
Episode: #226 (February 8, 2009)