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TAKEN

SYNOPSIS:
When divorced former CIA agent Bryan (Liam Neeson) consents to allow his 17 year old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) to travel from Los Angeles to Europe with her girlfriend Amanda (Katie Cassidy), he does so reluctantly after his ex wife Lenore (Famke Jenssen) pressures him. His worst fears are soon realized when the two young women are taken by an underworld gang which uses traveling females to feed an extensive sex slave trafficking trade. Bryan, who has retired to be closer to Kim and spend more time with her, is catapulted back into his old profession, and has to use every trick in and out of the book to try and track down the gang and save his daughter before she disappears forever in the belly of the trafficking beast.

Review by Louise Keller:
Taken delivers non-stop action with Liam Neeson in devastating form as the former security agent who turns Paris upside down as he searches for his abducted daughter. Director Pierre Morel has a great eye for action and in true Luc Besson style (Besson co-wrote and produced the film), we are on a knife's edge throughout the spectacular chases and gritty action sequences that evolve naturally as part of the storyline. It's violent and some may be outraged that Neeson's Bryan does not only what he has to do, but makes his business blatantly personal - and without hesitation. Paris is an exciting backdrop for this tense and thrilling tale with Neeson utterly convincing as the decent man with the licence of a special skill set that prompts him to become his adversaries' worst nightmare.

We meet Bryan firstly as a thoughtful, caring father who dotes on his teenage daughter. It is clear from the start he never plays by the rules - whether it is dealing with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) or with the nasty Albanian thugs intent on using innocent young girls in their drug and prostitution racket. Bryan gets his leads in unorthodox fashion and there is nothing subtle about the physical manner in which he punishes, tortures and kills those who get in his way. 'Try not to make a mess,' his former Parisian security colleague Jean Claude (Olivier Rabourdin) tells him, but with only a 98 hour window to find his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), Bryan has no time to tiptoe around. We get a first hand demonstration of his skill-set starting with his quick thinking, deadly hand-to-hand combat, smart technical operations, medical nous and skills in voice recognition. He has skills behind the wheel too as displayed in the two wild car chase scenes held on a muddy construction site and chasing a luxury boat cruising on the Seine under the twinkling lights of Paris.

Maggie Grace plays seventeen year old Kim convincingly, and although of course we empathise with her horrific plight, it is hard not to be frustrated by her spoilt-brat behaviour. All the performances are excellent with the characters well enough developed to allow them to be more than token. This goes for Bryan's family, colleagues and the dastardly villains who show themselves to be nasty pieces of work. This is a film to be taken for its journey of thrills. Analysed on moral grounds, there is a different discussion to be had.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Liam Neeson brings his considerable screen presence to the role of Bryan, and is at least as likeable and credible as Harrison Ford might have been in this role some years ago. This is that kind of role, where the hero has a powerful personal agenda motivating the big game action. The Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen screenplay has a simple but effective premise; the ex-CIA agent on a mission to save his kidnapped daughter. But the variables give the film a lot to work with, from the Paris setting to the deadly gang who steal and trade women like slaves. There are a couple of gaps in the story, but we can overlook these as we speed around the track of a chase that has boffo biffo and tension in spades.

While Neeson inhabits his character and occupies most of the screentime, he needs hefty villains to combat, and they don't come much nastier, we are told, than the Albanian thugs in this plot; even the Russian mafia give them a wide berth, Bryan is warned. The stakes are very high, and credible, so the hunt takes on a visceral intensity as Bryan races against the clock: in cases like this, says an old French contact now working behind a desk (Olivier Rabourdin in excellent form), if the victim is not found and rescued within 76 hours, chances are they never will be.

Famke Jenssen makes an impression as the ex wife now married to a rich businessman, and she delivers her character's journey with a fine performance. And however short her screen time is, Maggie Grace is excellent as the young Kim, who sets off for a European adventure that quickly turns into a nightmare beyond her worst fears.

Pierre Morel's direction lives up to the script's demands as a high octane action thriller with some of the most effective fight sequences of recent times, and some stunning stunts. He also makes Bryan's bruising encounters with the bad guys exciting for their choreography and camera coverage. There is also a touch of realism in Bryan getting injured, which helps maintain authenticity. But the film's big strength remains its solid story - and its well chosen cast.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

TAKEN (MA)
(France, 2008)

CAST: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Xander Berkeley, Katie Cassidy, Olivier Rabourdin, Lelan Orser, John Gries, David Warshovsky, Gerard Watkins

PRODUCER: Luc Besson, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, India Osborne

DIRECTOR: Pierre Morel

SCRIPT: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michel Abramowitz

EDITOR: Frederic Thoraval

MUSIC: Nathaniel Mechaly

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hugues Tissandier

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 14, 2008







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