Rewatched Jul 16, 2012
Tony Black’s review:
What would have simply been another mindless action B-movie is shot in the arm with a welcome level of gravitas thanks to the frankly inspired casting of Liam Neeson here, an actor not even he probably knew was such a perfect fit for the hard-boiled action genre. This must be my fourth or fifth viewing of Taken and pleasingly it never seems to lose its edge; for the most part providing genuine thrills, a blistering pace and a central performance a cut above much action fare of its like.
There's a simplicity inherent to Pierre Morel's movie, of course. Its cautionary tale message could not be better spelled out by a flashing neon sign but it's a secondary point for what we're here to see: Neeson beating up half of Paris to save the life of his kidnapped daughter, and Morel achieves that with skilful aplomb. Neeson, it has to be said, is a revelation here - his retired CIA legend Bryan Mills deserving to be up there with McClane or Bauer on the scales of badass fathers in entertainment. He anchors the piece with a performance that, outside of his incredible set of skills, is grounded in a reality you wouldn't get with a ten'a'penny action star who could have been cast; he really does elevate the whole thing from an acting point of view, while convincing utterly as an action hero - his spy is lethal, ruthless, cunning and deadly and there's a simple delight in seeing Neeson tear up so much on his driven quest. The whole thing would fall apart without him, of course - everyone else is 2D, be it Maggie Grace (in typically annoying form, playing way too young for her age) as the naive daughter in question, Famke Janssen & Xander Berkeley as her cosseted parents or Holly Valance as a cliched music princess; plus the villains are simple Euro-baddies to be disposed of for Bryan, the closest shade of grey Olivier Rabourdin's corrupt police officer. Yet... you won't really care, given how magnetic Neeson is. It's just a shame Morel wastes a bit too long on cheesy set up before he gets going; the piece is lithe, pacey and gripping once the kidnapping begins but the first 20 minutes we're just treading water until the inevitable.
Already touching on iconic given Neeson's much quoted speech, Taken deserves to rank alongside some of the action classics of our time. It harks back to pulse pounding 80's action-fests almost, putting aside too much overblown narrative or a myriad of characters to tell a lean, simple, punchy story that once it gets going is an absolute thrill ride, while Liam Neeson single handedly redefines the trajectory of his career in 90 minutes. A must see for any fan of the action thriller.