Taken (2008)
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Taken (2008)

Blu-ray

It has been said that revenge is a dish best served cold. While there may be some compelling arguments in support of the general validity of this statement when it come to a plot device for a movie audiences tend to want revenge served up in the burning heat of gunfire and explosions. Vengeance flicks, and their first cousins, the vigilante movie, have always proven to be a big crowd pleaser. Aside from the obvious violence inherent in the theme there are several requisite elements that have ensured the lasting popularity of this genre. First of all the motivation of the protagonist has to be clear and somewhat understandable. The violence may be extreme but it can’t be mindless. Members of the audience need to identify with the one dishing out the revenge in order for the story to work. The founding principle in play here is to allow the viewer to live vicariously through the depicted action. Naturally, what the person in the audience wants vengeance for is nowhere as serious as the driving events in the film but for the audience it permits the necessary emotional connection. One method that usually succeeds is to pull the family into the vendetta. If you look at some of the definitive examples of this type of flick, for example ‘Death Wish’ or ‘The Punisher’ what sets the vigilante off is a deadly affront to his family. There is something emotionally satisfying watching a man determined to avenge or rescue his family. One of the latest entries into this venerable genre is ‘Taken’. In it a former CIA operative has to kick, punch and shoot his way through Europe to save his kidnapped daughter. As a father of a young woman myself I readily was drawn into the story and could well understand the father’s motivation. There are flaws present in this movie but the sheer energy of it combined with some powerful performances propels it above the typical popcorn action flick.

This film was written by Robert Mark Kamen and Luc Besson. Kamen has been a much sought after script writer for well on twenty five years now. He has taken on several types of stories but is at his best with action particularly when a good dollop of revenge is in the mix. His previous screenplays included the ‘Karate Kid’ and ‘Transporter’ franchises as well as such vengeance classics as ‘Gladiator’ and ‘The ‘Punisher’. Besson is a well known name with both European and American audiences. He introduced the world to Natalie Portman in ‘Leon’ (known in the states as ‘The Professional’) and brought action Sci-Fi to comic heights with ‘The Fifth Element’. Both of these men are accomplished as writers and have proven track records providing successful screenplay but it has to be noted that they are not known for sharp, witty dialogue. Sure they always come up with a really good line suitable for the trailer and this one excels in that regard. However, the story delivers where it counts; providing non-stop, pulse pounding action. There have some who would complain that this movie lacks realism and does not afford character development. These are valid points but I feel that they are taken out of context. In this genre the hero is unchanged; he is there for a single minded reason, to save the day and that is it. This is not a character study possessing deeper meaning. The purpose here is a good thrill ride and that is what you get. As for realism, that has never been a requirement for an action flick ever since a cowboy was able to shoot dozens of bad guys with his six without having to reload.

Directing the movie was Pierre Morel. He has some experience mostly over in Europe with most of his experience as a cinematographer. This did translate to a film that was extremely interesting in its visual styling. He employs some rather interesting camera angles and truly knows how best to light a scene. Considering some of the dark, clandestine locations used here Morel utilizes shadows extremely effectively. This serves to reinforce the mood of suspense and fosters a sense of urgency that is vital to selling the film to the audience. Almost every minute drives the story to an exciting albeit predictable conclusion. There is plenty of excitement to be had plus several crowd pleasing moments when the villains receive their just desserts. We have all seen the bad guys get some jolts of house current to help them give up vital information. Here this ‘alternative interrogation method is further enhanced when Daddy first stabs the bad guy in both legs with metal spikes and attaches the wires to them. At the point this happens the audience is so disgusted by the villain that there is a sort of cathartic release.

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is like a lot of men; divorced with a strained relationship with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) over the custody of their 17-year-old daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Lenore married a very successful man, Stuart (Xander Berkeley). He always manages to outdo Bryan with his lavish gifts and generally spoiling the girl. Bryan and Lenore’s marriage fell apart due to his devotion to his job as a CIA field operative that specialized in ‘wet work’. Against his better judgment he allows his ex to talk him into signing a permission slip so Kim can take Spring Break in Europe with her 19 year old best friend, Amanda (Katie Cassidy). When the girls get to Paris they are approached by a young man who gets the information were they are staying and invites them to a party. It was just a ploy and soon men are they to kidnap the girls. Bryan just happens to be on the phone with his daughter while Amanda is being grabbed and he assures the kidnappers that if they take his daughter he will find them and kill them. With the help of some of his old ‘company’ associates and begins to track the men down. He discovers that the girls were being hooked on drugs and about to be sold into sex slavery. Bryan gets to those responsible and keeps his promise many times over.

The two disc Blu-ray is excellent. The combination of perfect picture and robust lossless audio makes this a sensory experience with a visceral punch that will blow you away, Neeson pulls off the right balance between the concerned father and ruthless killing machine to pull you into the film immediately and keep you riveted to the screen.

includes Both Theatrical And Extended Cut Of The Film
Extended Cut Audio Commentary By Director Pierre Morel, Cinematographer Michel Abramowicz And Car Stunt Supervisor Michel Julienne
Extended Audio Commentary By Co-Screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen
Le Making Of Featurette
Avant Premiere Featurette
Inside Action Side-By-Side Scene Comparisons
Black Ops Field Manual

I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill

Posted 08/03/09

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