Hey folks, Valkor here. I know I'm supposed to be writing post-CES shit, but this couldn't be helped and I wanted to get this review up ASAP. So I'm sitting at home, resting my mojo after a long weekend, and what should pop up on the screen? A preview for a film called "Taken", which stars Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn) and Famke Janssen (Jean Grey from X-Men). Once I read the title, a chord was struck in me. Why does this movie sound so familiar? I was suddenly washed over with excitement. Through my many new sources that I've developed in the industry, I recalled someone sent me a screener of the film of the same name. But I passed it off as something just so-so. But damn the preview looked so good that I dove into the Val-pile and saw the title "Taken" staring up at me, laughing at me, mocking me "ha, ha you had me for a month and didn't even know it". Well now that I've finally watched it, I have to say this: Taken is the first big hit, must see film for 2009.
The story of Taken is simple: Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a former CIA spy and "Preventionist" now retired and trying to build up a relationship with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Mom, Lenore (Janssen) is remarried to this rich mogul and does her best to limit what Bryan can say/do around their daughter. One day Kim tells dad that she wants to go to Paris with her friend, but Bryan tells her no 1) she's too young and 2) the world isn't safe. Mom and daughter object, so, of course, Dad also agrees with a few conditions. And we all know from the commercial what happens; the daughter is kidnapped by Albanians. And now it's up to Bryan, utilizing his "unique set of skills" to get her back. There are no major or crazy plot twists to the story, but what you get is a lot of action, with Liam showing off some crazy moves, torturing the bad guys until they spill their guts to the whereabouts of his daughter. And it all leads up to a tepid finale, ending on an "awwwww, isn't that nice?" kind of note.
First off, as suspenseful as the commercials made "Taken" out to be, I was quite surprised how well it carried over into the full-feature. It's edge-of-your-seat, gripping suspense and one heck of a ride! The story is predictable, and you'll know how it ends. But how it gets there is bad assery at its finest. Now, I'm a huge fan of the "Metal Gear" games and Liam Neeson does some insane Snake Eater shit, all in the name of getting back his daughter. If you're a Metal Gear Geek, watch the film to see what I mean. I swear if this film was made into a video game and it chopped up all the cool film bits into cutscenes, you would have one killer game. The people he meets, the contacts he makes, the things he does to the bad guys, what the hell he even shoots one of the bad guy's wife right in front of the guy. Now that's bad ass! Also, waterboarding ain't got nothin on the things Bryan Mills does in this film. I don't want to give too much away, but there's one scene you'll really get a "charge" out of. While Neeson does an amazing job being an action hero, the rest of the cast play their parts well, though we're limited to their screen time. Famke plays the tortured mom, who you only see at the beginning and once again at the end that's about it. Maggie Grace is the captured daughter who you also see at the film's beginning and end. No one else really stands out because this is Liam's film, he's the focus, and you know what? I'm all in. It kicks ass and that's all that needs to be said.
I think towards the end of the film, the producers/directors thought Liam was getting off a bit too easy as he kicks so much ass, yet he doesn't get a scratch on him until the end. Sure he has some amazing moves, but he should've gotten punched in the face or stabbed at least once before the finale. It's forgivable and really it's nitpicking, but it would have also bumped up the suspense level a notch or two.
Jan 30th is when "Taken" gets a release. And by the previews alone, it looks like it will do well at the box office. But I would like to do my part to ensure that this film is given a proper audience. If you want a film full of suspense, exploding with action, and one that's loads of fun, then "Taken" is definitely the one to check out. So, out of TOV 5 stars, I'm giving "Taken" 4.5 stars.