Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Taken" (2008) - Movie Review

Let me examine a film of similar plot and screenplay what Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) takes on “Taken”. Written by an impressive writer and film maker David Mamet is “Spartan”. In Mamet’s film, Val Kilmer plays the merciless special operative with precision in his eye to find the daughter of an important government lead. He is methodical, knows his enemy and always, always has a plan. He is fast as the screenplay makes him and never takes hands on combat unless necessary. It is all about information and when the time comes, it is a stunt like no other with a smooth clean cut. “Taken” with Liam Neeson gives hope of that but curves out of that realm once Bryan begins to accumulate bodies.

Secret operatives have no personal lives and if they have one it should be a disaster, at least in the films we see. It does make sense and forgiving the cliche, Bryan is all in love for her seventeen year old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and as a Hollywood father begging sympathy from audience we see him cornering out in the birthday party of Kim. Of course his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) gives him hard time and he takes it as a grown adult in his own sense of pun and maturity to it. Kim goes on a trip to Europe and immediately things take turns when she is kidnapped. It happens right when she is on phone with Bryan who knows more than any one that the perpetrators are going to take her (“The next part is very important. They are going to take you”). He gets a moment with the abductor over the phone which forms the hunt.

Liam Neeson demands respect in characters he has played so far. Take “Kingdom of Heaven”, “Kinsey” or “Batman Begins” and he would immediately make you crave for his acknowledgment and be a pet student or follower of him. Even merely loaning his voice to the “The Chronicles of Narnia” and its sequel, he earns it. So when he says “I will find you and I will kill you”, he is going to bring hell. He does bring hell to the traffic in Paris and the surrounding suburbs. He slaps and punches, plays word and spy games with his old friend Jean-Claude () to get the information.

Bryan Mills does brings the effect of Jason Bourne grown old but mind it, he is in no way could be Bourne. Bourne gets personal but logic comes first. He is programmed to be that way by the screenplay writers and by his directors. Bryan Mills sets his foot in any place where there is a possibility of his daughter being held captive with anger and revenge. He would drip every ounce of blood from the person who took his daughter just to get started. The wrath becomes a weakness for the character and the film movement. His sloppiness is not met with emotional empathy but a messy work from a proclaimed clean operative.

Forgive my insensitive but “Taken” should have been playing as a thriller without the agenda of overflowing emotion. The phone conversation with his daughter when she is seconds away from the people who wants her is a prime example for that. Bryan knows what is going to happen and beyond the wimps of her daughter advices in a very nice authoritative but comforting voice to do exactly what he says. He becomes emotional but with a scale to weigh close to perfection. That composure, cool and his training of being pragmatically cold makes us fear for his act. Some how he loses that once he bangs the doors of the enemies. Still watch out when he goes into the fortress and finds the man who spoke over phone. That is how the entire film should have been.

I have provided excellent two films in this review executing the art of thrill with entertainment and film making in tandem. “Taken” could have been one with writer like Luc Besson who gave the cult classic “The Professional”. Along with his co-writer Robert Mark Kamen, he designs a great character very much required for the story. The director Pierre Morel also casts the right man for the job who very much does it with his command and stature. But Liam Neeson can only go so much on a path laid down by the writers and his orchestrator.


coffee said...

the plot of Taken is refreshingly simple: "Liam Neeson is gonna beat down some people till he gets his daughter back..."

Ashok said...

I have no problem with that as long it is done well :-).