Spoiler warning: If you're one of the 3 people who read these posts, then it's better if you have either seen the movie or do not intend on seeing it.
On another note, I really recommend this movie, it's very intense, if it's a choice between reading and watching, don't read at all.
Taken is a gripping movie. The word gripping has been overused and is now benign. The truth is that gripping is a very intense word, and if that word has not been overused so much it would have sufficed to have left things with the very first sentence. The intensity of this picture is in how quick everything happens. You can feel that there's not a second to lose. You feel the tension; you feel engulfed by the events. It's gripping. It grips your attention and your emotions.
When I had finished watching Taken, I didn't know what it was that left me mesmerized. Sure enough it was an action flick, like many others. The plot didn't particularly stand out. If anything it was predictable save for a few interesting investigative techniques. The real power of this movie was just how raw it was. It was raw, unadulterated and authentic. Liam Neeson gives one of his best performances ever with an intensity and authenticity that captivates you, perfectly portraying a character that walked in on the movie rather than have been created by a script; Subtle, deliberate, strong and vulnerable.
I hate giving away plots but it's useless not to. Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a loving father who has left the business of being a 'preventer' to live close to his daughter. A 'preventer' of course is just another form of spy who prevents bad things from happening with 'special skills acquired over the years'. He is sincere in his love for his daughter whom he had been away from for years on account of his job.
The movie starts with realism to those unfilmed years after a hero of other movies decides he had neglected his family long enough and has to make it up to them. He is not in the state of despair and hopelessness, and neither is everything like a fairy tale. His daughter loves him, but he cannot manage to be close to her. Time fractured their relationship and not in the usual way where the only feelings were that of bitterness. It was a little better and a little sadder, the feelings were poisoned by pleasant distance. The daughter chose remoteness and amiability rather than closeness and love. There was little else Bryan could do but accept that. His image as a down and out father is heart breaking. His love is subtle, silent, reserved and practical. There is nothing in the world he wouldn't do, he would give up what he loves best, and he would change his attitude and he did. It seems that he will never tire from making it up to her.
But Bryan isn't just a father; he's a 'preventer'. That's why he manages to remain calm and talk to his daughter giving her instructions as she is being taken. He is a man who has seen the world, he deals with the event of his daughter being taken as a doctor would deal with a patient being brought in, to him this is the life he knows. This is perhaps why he is reserved and calm in his love for his child, able to take different forms of rejection. That is what the real world has taught him. His daughter asks if his job was the reason he was paranoid, he replies that it is the reason he is more aware. He is aware of world that's evil and dangerous and yet the true balance in his character was his concurrent awareness of values like friendship and love. He has not lost faith in the world, but he is wary of its ways.
That same character finds himself in an impossible situation of having to save his daughter with all his strength and all his skills. This is where the movie excels actually. The words in the script don't try too hard. There is no debate about what he's feeling or what he's doing. He is someone determined to get his daughter back. The movie does not waste a second to debate morals or ethics, despite how intricate they are to the movie and to real life. In fact, the questions that this movie could pose if you caught your breath were about the intricacies of life. There are no pauses. Bryan mercilessly hunts down those who have kidnapped his daughter. It's all very simple, he investigates and he kills all those he has to within the 96 hour window he has to find her.
But Bryan is no superman. He's lucky, but not completely unbeatable. He is prepared, determined and ruthless. He does not spend time negotiating, he does not pause to think. He is a man used to killing, his emotion exists but does not interfere with him going about his tasks. There is a mention to Rambo in the beginning of the film because of his ability to take on anything thrown at him. Yet the killings are not absurd or humorous like in a Schwarzenegger movie, they are real and serious, there is no remoteness in them. His perseverance and dedication is beyond words.His true ability is to be able to think straight under the most extreme pressure. The whole movie bears witness to this.
Perhaps one of the most shocking scene is when he is with his old friend and his wife during dinner. He asks him if he is complicit and involved with turning a blind eye to all the human trafficking. His friend doesn't really care for Bryan's daughter. At this point Bryan uses his gun to shoot his friend's wife in the arm; a sudden and shocking action that catches everyone off guard, the viewer, the friend and even the wife. The next one will be between her eyes he warns. Bryan is not bluffing, he is not a good guy threatening to kill to get information. We do not imagine that he will not do it. He will kill her, there is no moral question, no hesitation. There is no idleness in his threat. The drive to find his daughter is so compelling that you can only think about this much later, perhaps after the movie has ended. The values of family, corruption, business and the world are so well entwined without the attempt to make a statement. It is enough to observe and weigh things out, the director never giving us eloquent thoughts to think about but purely intense circumstances.
I write this take on the movie without much analysis, just jotting down my reactions to a very intense movie that gave me more joy to feel than analyze.
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