Friday, 21 September 2012
Film: Taken (2010)
Cert 18, 89 Minutes
This well crafted action movie is a masterclass in pacing from Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel and relaunched Liam Neeson as the new tough guy on the block. He plays Brian Mills, a former government operative with a 'unique set of skills' who has retired so he can spend more time with his seventeen year old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). This skills come in very useful when Kim is kidnapped while on holiday in Paris by nasty Albanian people traffickers. Before you can say Schindler's List, the big guy is on a plane and soon massacring half of the Albanian population of Paris to track down his daughter. Will he being to find her before she is doped out of her brain and sold off to a dodgy Sheik?
Taken has two virtues that make it a refeshingly different action movie to a lot of recent fayre. Firstly, it's a lean film with hardly any fat. The early more domestic scenes are well done but don't mess around - quickly we see how much Brian loves his daughter, that he's estranged from his ex-wife and the scenes where he protects a pop star (Holly Valance) from a mad fan quickly establish his hard bastard with a soft centre persona. His barbeque with former comrades also quickly sketch in the fact that this is a man with dangerous skills and a ruthless determination. Once Kim is snatched, the film wastes no time plunging Neeson into the action and it barely lets up from there. Its other virtue is that it totally eschews the irony and winks to the audience that has come to blight many action movies since John McClane. There are no wisecracks here and no outlandish stunts. Like its protanganist, the action is hard, fast, brutal and undeniably, viscerally exciting.
Neeson is an utter revelation. Yes, he has borrowed a vat of Nick Cage's hair dye but he is totally convincing as a man who you would never want to mess with and who, if you were in trouble, you wish you were related to. His speech to the kidnapper on the phone - "I will hunt you, I will find you and I will kill you" has become iconic but it's Leeson's delivery that sells it. What follows is a non stop flurry of violence with an emphasis on fighting and shooting with some good car chases thrown in too. No single sequence is that original or inspiring but the cumulative effect is certainly entertaining, satisfying that violent little bugger we have hidden inside. If you stop to think too long about it, the portrayal of these Albanian immigrants and Arabic characters is very racist, with Mills dispatching France's undesirables for its French makers, so best not to think about it for too long.
Ultimately, Taken never loses sight of the fact that, despite all the killing and torture, Brian just wants to save his daughter. It's a motivation we can all understand and allows us to guiltlessly root for him as he massacres Albanians left, right and centre. As Kim, Maggie Grace, an actress I have never really rated, is brilliant, totally conveying a mix of child and adult with real skill. Let's hope the pair can help recreate the success with the upcoming Taken 2.
GK Rating: ****