Saturday, February 7, 2009

Taken


Taken stars Liam Neeson as retired CIA "preventer" Brian Mills, one who kept bad things from happening. He was a dedicated operative who lost his marriage and poisoned his relationship with his 17 year old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace, who played Shannon on Lost). He has retired and moved to Los Angeles to try to have a relationship with her, but it's really rocky.

Since Kim is legally a minor, she has to get Brian's signed permission on a legal document to leave the country when she wants to take month-long Parisian vacation with her 19 year old best friend Amanda. Because of his background, he's reluctant to say yes, but he finally does. With conditions - that she takes an international cell phone programmed with his number. That she calls when her flight lands at Orly Airport. That she call him every night. And that he take her to LAX. Of course, she agrees.

At the airport, Kim rushes in to find Amanda while Brian unloads and trundles her luggage. As he's doing this, he finds a map of Europe in her wide-open humongous purse; there are multiple cities circled throughout the continent, with a date beside the city. His ex arrives in a limo at this point, and when he asks her if she knew what this is, she tells him that Kim and Amanda are following U2 on several dates of a European tour.

And why wasn't he told? Because Kim can't live with his restrictions and feels she has to lie to get a measure of freedom to do a normal teen "thing", which her mother agrees with, so that Kim can begin to get a measure of the "real world". The retirement thing is really hitting a rocky patch.

Kim and Amanda meet Peter when they arrive in Paris and are waiting on a taxi to take them to a condo owned by some on Amanda's cousins. Unfortunately for the girls, Peter is a spotter for a gang of expatriate Albanian who kidnap such young women and sells them into the sex trade.

Kim and Brian are talking on the phone, after she forgot to call on the agreed schedule, when the kidnappers break into the condo and grab Amanda. Brian coaches Kim into a taking a momentary hiding place, dropping the phone on the floor, and yelling out everything she sees as she is dragged away.

One of the kidnappers picks up the phone; we hear only his breathing. Brian tells him that he has no money for a ransom, but he does have "a particular set of skills...that make me a nightmare for a man like you." If the kidnappers leave Kim, it's over; otherwise, Brian will track them down and kill them. The kidnapper says "Good luck" and hangs up.

The movie has, to this point, had a rather leisurely pace, building slowly to this confrontation. Now, the pace rockets faster and faster, with no let up from the building tension and suspense.

Brian Mills is hypercompetent, and he is willing to do anything necessary to recover his daughter, which has fatal consequences for everyone who gets in his way.

This story has a feel a lot like that of The Day of the Jackal, one of the true classics of the suspense thriller genre. Make sure that you are well rested before seeing Taken, as the sustained adrenaline rush will leave you well and truly wrung out.

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