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Taken has all the key aspects of a typical action movie. It starts with the basics: trustworthy main character, dire situation and linear storyline.
Then come the fun but still familiar parts. The movie is peppered with realistic, claustrophobic fight sequences reminiscent of the Bourne series. The protagonist has implausible but forgettable means of gathering information. The villains of the movie are identified by their nationality – but instead of “the Russians” or “the Germans,” Taken‘s resident baddies are “the Albanians.”
Finally, there’s the twist. Its existence is necessary to distinguish Taken from every other action movie out there, especially because most of the film’s aspects, though well done and entertaining, aren’t terribly original. This twist is one that could make or break the film.
The impetus for the action is familial love. Liam Neeson plays our righteous protagonist Bryan Mills, a retired government agent who now exists solely to rebuild the fractured relationship he has with his daughter.
The film dwells on this foundation for a good portion of the first half. This awkward, stagnant lingering is designed to indicate the pivotal role that the relationship is destined to play, but the filmmakers‘ tragic overemphasis of it risks seeming condescending to the audience.
When Mills‘ teenage daughter is kidnapped upon arriving in France for an unsupervised summer vacation, he snaps into action to find her. The kidnapping itself, however, isn’t the scary part; Mills‘ sources reveal a fate in store for her much more terrifying and harrowing than a quick death.
People will have to decide for themselves if this is a positive or negative aspect of the movie. On one hand, the tortuous future looming for her is enough for the case of fatherly love to justify any of Mills‘ morally questionable actions. It also brings something new to the table, choosing to go where action films tend to avoid in favor of lighter, obviously fictional fare.
On the other hand, the sight of the gritty European underbelly of crime and abuse toes the line between entertainment and “Dateline“ exposé. The brutality may be distracting at best, but could be completely off-putting at worst.
LAURA KROEGER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.