TAKEN

98922

Overall Impression – Liam Neeson brings this slick action flick to another level. 

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s your main character? – Bryan Mills.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: rescue his daughter, Kim.  Personal: rescue Kim.  Private: prove to himself that he still has a place in Kim’s life.

Who’s trying to stop him? – Members at various levels of a sex trade organization, operative-turned-police chief Jean-Claude, and plenty of Neeson-fodder along the way.

What happens if he fails? – Bryan’s world revolves around his daughter.  If he loses Kim to the sex slavers, he’ll no longer have a reason to live.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan –  Bryan once dedicated his life to the CIA instead of his family.  Now he’s divorced, lives alone, and feels sidelined because Kim lives with his ex-wife and her new husband. 

Wanderer – When Kim is kidnapped during her trip to Paris, Bryan uses his CIA contacts and learns that she was taken by Albanian sex slavers.  Bryan flies to Paris and, under the watchful eye of his old friend Jean-Claude, puts his long-honed skills to use.  He retraces the kidnapping, chases down leads and learns about the sale of ‘merchandise’ at a construction yard.  Bryan pretends to be a customer, finding a different kidnapped girl wearing Kim’s jacket.

Warrior – Bryan rescues the girl from the Albanians, destroying the construction yard in the process.  While he nurses her back to health, he avoids Jean-Claude, who’s been ordered to arrest him after the construction site incident.  The girl provides the location of the Albanians’ hideout, and Bryan uses Jean-Claude’s ID to infiltrate it, tear it apart, and torture their leader.  He learns that a businessman intends to sell Kim to the highest bidder, but Bryan needs Jean-Claude to get his location.  Bryan discovers that Jean-Claude has been accepting bribes from the Albanians. 

Martyr – Bryan threatens to kill Jean-Claude’s wife if he doesn’t get the businessman’s location.  By being willing to kill an innocent woman, Bryan is willing to sacrifice the very core of what he stands for: protecting the innocent.  Bryan eventually tracks Kim  to the bidder’s giant yacht, where he fights through a hoard of trained baddies to save her. 

AND, IN THE END…

IMO, TAKEN’s success lies with its great leading actor and clever execution. This isn’t to say that what transpires is any more realistic than what you’d see in the TRANSPORTER franchise (it’s made by the same folks), but it’s amazing how some actors and actresses can elevate material.

Regarding its execution, TAKEN stood out for me because it felt smart and innovative, and it’s a great illustration of the YES/NO dynamic in the Wanderer and and Warrior stages.  Providing smart answers to interesting obstacles is doubly important in these movies, since they constitute much of the action and the intrigue.  I didn’t leave thinking “I’m glad he found his daughter”…  To be honest, I didn’t care.  I was replaying the awesome torture scene in my head, or the clever ways Bryan found the information he was seeking.

This might explain why I found the ‘Professional’ and ‘Personal’ categories to be the same.  Bryan has a strong, primal goal, and there’s just enough story and character to serve the action.  Any more would’ve been too much.

It’s interesting to compare these action movies with those like DIE HARD, which had more rounded characters, probably more action, distinctive Prof./Personal/Private goals, etc.  Perhaps TAKEN and TRANSPORTER represent a separate genre of action movie.  They’re not worse because they’re lacking in certain elements – they’re just streamlined.  TAKEN’s got it where it counts, and the box office agrees. 

(NOTE: welcome back action movie karate chop.  You’ve been missed.)

                                                                                       – Dan Pilditch

Tags:

2 Responses to “TAKEN”

  1. Ken Fast March 1, 2009 at 7:10 am #

    Your reaction to “Taken” is, to be honest, a bit chilling. It seems to me if a viewer fails to care if Bryan found his daughter, then the film must have failed at some basic level… to make you care.

  2. ds March 14, 2009 at 4:19 pm #

    This

    “(NOTE: welcome back action movie karate chop. You’ve been missed.)”

    made me want to see the movie!

Leave a Reply