Tuesday, 03 February 2009
The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
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 you.
Taken was a movie that I wasn't entirely for sure what to expect going into it. The Europeans on the film's IMDB boards were all gung-ho about how great a film Taken was. They talked about how it was action-packed, fast-paced, damned-fine entertainment.
I tried to get as many people as I could to go, but unfortunately that meant that I went to see the film with only Jeremy.
I read the IMDB newsfeed Friday which meant that the reviews for the new releases for the week were in the feed. Despite the praise that Taken had been given by sites such as firstshowing.net, the Americans hated it. Roger Ebert went so far as to criticize co-author and producer Luc Besson claiming Besson "turns out high-quality trash."
We get enough Bryan Mills' (Neeson's) character's back story to know that he was either in the Special Forces, CIA or Secret Service. He still hangs with his ex-co-workers and has retired from whatever thrilling career he had to be closer to his daughter. Apparently Mills was never home for his family, which lead to a divorce and his wife marrying some rich prick who turned the whole family into snobs.
The plot is as simple as it it was presented in the trailer: Bryan's daughter Kim goes to France and immediately gets kidnapped. What's not quite evident in the trailer is that this film centers around human trafficking. (For a more complete look at the topic of trafficking, I heartily recommend the intense three hour, two-part TV drama Human Trafficking starring Donald Sutherland and Mira Sorvino.)
Per the trailer, while the kidnapping is in progress, Mills tells Kim to get under the bed and then shout out as many details as possible when they take her. Based on the recording he makes of the horrifying conversation, Mills has his one of his buddies run it through the system only to hear that his daughter has been captured by big players in the trafficking business and he only has ninety-six hours to find his daughter.
From here the action takes off. Mills goes to Paris and systematically walks through the crime scene gathering clues and calling in favors. Mills can physically hustle at the metaphorical speed of lightening. There is no part of his being that isn't sharp and ready for action. He thinks quickly and is very resourceful. His empty hands are just as deadly as when they are holding guns. From tangoing with the French government that he used to render service to in his old career to soliciting a hooker's service to draw her pimp out in the open and give him a way into the trafficking business to start picking off the flies one by one, Neeson takes you on an adrenalin ride in Taken. Mills has one goal and that is to get his daughter back safely.
The bulk of the film feels like a cross between the Bourne trilogy and Quantum of Solace which explains the European's high praise of the movie. Unlike Quantum of Solace this is a highly entertaining experience without all the WTF moments or poor character motivations, which makes the American critic's take on Taken a real head-scratcher. A nice fly in the buttermilk for Ebert & Co. is that Taken took top place at the box office on it's opening weekend and I dare say it will stay there for at least two more weeks until My Bloody Valentine 3D debuts.
Despite there being a plethora of movies playing in the theater that originally had a holiday timetable for release but only played limited engagements last year in order to be considered for Oscar nominations, I am willing to wait for the majority of those titles to come out on DVD and will willingly pay to see Taken at least twice more before it leaves the theater.
ehowton and I had a discussion based on the trailer. He had not seen it, but I had described it to him. He mentioned that the first three Liam Neeson movies he saw, Neeson played ineffectual characters that were unable to accomplish the character's goals--unable to protect his family or to kill the good guy. We discussed this facet of Neeson's career at length, concluding that Neeson's character would likely succeed in finding and killing the killers but would likely see his daughter murdered in front of him as a direct consequence of his actions. Of course, I won't reveal if Taken follows that course of speculation or not, but I will reveal that he does see his daughter sold in an blind auction where she fetches $500,000 as she is a virgin.
Taken took me for an adventure I want to be a part of again. I think the main reason there was so much criticism in the American media is directly proportional to the discomfort level with the driving element of the film; human trafficking. This film raises awareness of simple, stupid choices that young people make having hugh consequences on the rest of their life while at the same time reminding American audiences how well they are protected from the evils of human trafficking.