Directed By Pierre Morel
Starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Jensen
I’m an old softie when it comes to this film and that’s because it’s just so retro. I love 80’s films such as Commando, Death Wish, and even a little George C. Scott film called Hardcore, all of which Taken almost homages. With that said, the film is far from perfect.
Commando is a perfect film in this genre. It avoids getting caught up in plot holes and missteps by just getting right to it with the first few minutes of the film. Death Wish does the same thing; the story and action are in full swing within the first act of the film. Taken attempts to do a lot of character building in the first act and sometimes it works and other times it feels ham fisted. Some dialogue feels so obvious the character should just look at the camera and start if off with “OK viewers here’s something you need to know about the character’s back-story.” Also, the characters are taken to a stereotypical extreme in the first act and that’s good and bad. Liam Neeson’s old military buddies are fantastically stereotypical and very 80’s while his ex-wife, played by Famke Jensen, is too dislikeable. Some sympathy for her character would have been nice and made the drama work a bit better in the first act.
The pacing of the first act is a bit off too. For a long time the pacing feels leisurely with Nesson’s character going to his daughter’s birthday party, having a cook out with his buddies, and taking a job as a bodyguard. When the action starts though the transition to that section of the movie is such a rush some of the necessary drama is tripped over. Nesson just bursts into his ex-wife’s house and announces “She’s been taken” and very little more explanation is required by her or her new husband. On the upside the phone conversation Neeson has with his daughter’s kidnappers is riveting and begins the last two thirds of the movie focusing on Neeson saving his daughter played by Maggie Grace (Lost).
Neeson shines as a badass action hero in this film. He ahs the personality to deliver the lines and the director and cinematographer deliver on the visuals making the film a complete blast to watch. Within the last two-thirds of the film there are a few more glaring plot holes but they didn’t even matter because it was all just so much fun. It was exhilarating in a way that only Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element) can write and Pierre Morel (District B-13) can direct. These two have been working on projects together for a while and it shows. Morel really knows how to take Besson’s scripts and bring them to life.
The acting is good enough except in the case of Neeson where the acting is top notch. Jensen could probably have done better had she been written a little stronger. Maggie Grace is fine as the victim too. With all of the complaints Taken still gets a big must see from me because it’s such an entertaining romp 80’s style. Even the action scenes are shot in an 80’s way. In other words you can actually see everything that’s happening unlike most modern action films. It’s high concept fun. Go see it.