ďI donít know you who you are. I donít know what you want. If youíre looking for a ransom, I can tell you, I donít have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills acquired over a very long career in the shadows, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that will be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you donít, I will look for you, I will find you. And I will kill you.Ē
With these chilling words to a member of a band of kidnappers, former government operative Bryan Mills begins the longest 96-hours of his life Ė and the hunt for the fearsome organization that has taken his daughter Kim. (from Movieweb.com)
During a time of year where studios dump the movies they have no faith in on moviegoers, it's always a thrill to find the rare gems that enter the mix. Pierre Morel's action thriller Taken is a tense film about a former government agent who goes on a rampage through France after his daughter is kidnapped. It's a nailbiter to say the least, and one with a greater depth than I ever expected.
By "depth," I'm referring mostly to the plot element I didn't realize was a big part of Taken. Liam Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, the retired agent who is desperately trying to make up for lost time and grow closer to his daughter Kim who lives with her remarried mother. X-Men's Famke Janssen stars as Lenore, who is trying to keep Bryan out of her life, seemingly unable to forgive him for not being there when it mattered while they had been together. So when their daughter takes a trip to France with a friend - despite Bryan's misgivings about it - Kim is abducted and her father sets out to get her back. It isn't long before he discovers that Kim will become the victim of human trafficking and the remainder of the film exposes the viewer to the slimey underbelly of an Albanian human trafficking ring rooted in Paris. It's a brutally eye-opening experience for anyone not familiar with the disgusting practice. And the way Bryan infiltrates it displays some truly disturbing images.
With that said, due to the topic of human trafficking and prostitution, we see many tripped out girls with runny makeup and such passed out in beds or waiting to be taken advantage of. It's sad, but the payoff comes in Mills' heroics as he mows down all who stand between him and his daughter. Neeson's character in Mills and his fighting tactics and skills are rather reminiscent of Jason Bourne from the Bourne series, but Taken seems to feature as many action sequences and fights as probably two of those films put together. Mills is on a warpath and will ultimately stop at nothing. You can't help but root for him - and for the fall of the inhumane creeps and their trafficking ring - from the film's start to finish. And Mills is no superhero or a saint. He uses some truly questionable methods to get the job done. But in the end, most of his victims had what was coming to them (except for maybe one rather innocent bystander, which I can't divulge but it seemed a bit too ruthless).
The sexual content is never glorified. While comedies cheapen the act and a lot of R-rated films showcase and abuse it, Taken tries to show as little as possible while still getting the point across. In the beginning, before the trafficking subject matter comes into play, a teenage girl makes a comment to another that she hopes to sleep with one of the French strangers they had just met, and encourages her friend to lose her virginity in Paris. The film never approves of this mindset, but it's disturbing to realize young teens often think this way. And once the human trafficking plot unfolds, we see numerous women that appear drugged lying in beds (in dimly lit rooms), appearing sweaty and scantily clad (but never nude). It's also never done to seem sexy or alluring. If anything, it's intended to be the opposite. You feel for these young girls in this situation. There's also one scene, however, where we see bidding on a couple girls take place, and one appears to be in her underwear in a thong, while another has a very skimpy top and a bikini bottom. It's certainly the most revealing moment. Language is scattered but also an issue. There aren't any "F" words, but there are a handful of typical colorful words found in a PG-13 action film like this one. Lastly, there's a great deal of violence. As stated before, it's probably at least two Bourne films worth of action. Only a couple moments show any blood, while everything else is pretty brutal hand-to-hand fighting, shooting, knife fighting, and even a scene where Mills interrogates a guy by electrocuting him. The end result gives Taken a very intense and gripping feel. In fact, the whole film feels like it may have been rated R at one point, just trimmed for content here and there to clear a PG-13 rating. But it's the subject matter that makes this one especially adult in theme.
Taken is an impressive thriller. I've heard some about human trafficking before, but I have to admit this action film was a tremendous reality check for me. I know I'm not alone in my ignorance about this horrific practice, so in a way, I applaud director Pierre Morel's attempt to get the word out in a mainstream format. Be warned, though, that this is a truly intense movie with a very mature theme. This isn't one for teens (and parents of teenage daughters especially will probably want to lock them in their rooms for a couple years after seeing this!) and certainly not for families. The film also could have done without the language and intense violence, but Taken does a pretty good job raising awareness of human trafficking without going overboard in exploiting the subject matter just for entertainment value (I suppose there's plenty of action for that!).- John DiBiase (reviewed: 2/13/09)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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