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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Taken (review)

It doesn’t quite live up to the promise of that most awesomest of trailers, but almost. After a slow start — though one that’s quite charming, actually, in how it creates a tender, tentative relationship between ex-hardass spook Liam Neeson (Seraphim Falls) and the 17-year-old daughter (Maggie Grace: The Jane Austen Book Club) he’s trying to reconnect with — the action kicks in, as she finds herself kidnapped by Bad Men during a trip to Paris and Dad resolves to kick some Bad Men butt to get her back. He is coolly competent, like MacGyver on steroids — he can hotwire a car, run an IV, torture a villain, and look great doing it — and far more shockingly ruthless than we expect from our action heroes. It all moves so swiftly and so surely that you never realize how ridiculous it is at the time. It’s only after that you go, Hmmm, and note how retro its ideas about feminine “purity” are — the movie revels in taunting us with the possibility of Daddy’s Little Girl being ravished unless he can save her in time. Neeson stops, at one point, in a little photo booth in a Metro station to do the kind of photo enhancement that a movie mere years ago would have had performed by a geek explaining what he was doing at every step of the way. How far the technologies available to our cinematic heroes have come! And how not far at all have advanced the moral atmosphere he navigates. Thank god for Neeson’s tough proficiency — and Grace’s unforced sweetness — making it all so much better than it probably deserves to be.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • Hdj

    I dunno about this movie, what doesn’t make sense to me is, why don’t the bad guys kill his daughter before he gets there, I meen whats stopping them from doing that

  • Shadowen

    Haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t comment in an informaed manner, but since when is wanting to protect one’s daughter from being raped being obsessed with her “purity”? If indeed he seems concerned that she’s having consensual sex as well in the movie, please disregard that, I suck cocks (as the imageboards would say).

  • Hdj: Unlike most action movies, the main character doesn’t have one single nemesis.

    Shadowen: He’s a lot more protective than even that. The whole movie could have been a VERY different story about an old man whose old views of the world were hilariously outdated, if only the whole kidnapping thing didn’t happen. I almost thought I was watching the wrong movie, until the catalyst happened.

  • HDJ

    Ultimately his main concern should be getting her out alive. The rape and the abuse should be the last thing on his mind, all that stuff just blinds the mission. By informing the bad guys that you’re coming for them you already take away the element of stealth.

  • By informing the bad guys that you’re coming for them you already take away the element of stealth.

    Unless your (or Neeson’s, rather) is helped more by the element of fear rather than stealth.

    Also, though I haven’t yet seen the movie myself, obviously getting her out alive would be a big concern. (I assume, MAJ, that he is concerned about that, yes?) But getting her out alive AND before she’s raped/otherwise tortured would obviously be a priority, too, wouldn’t you say?

    As for why the bad guys don’t kill her before he gets to them:
    a) Didn’t they grab her to sell into slavery? Can’t do that if she’s dead.
    b) Do you honestly think that knowing they’ve killed his daughter would STOP him from looking for them?

  • Ack- A word fell out up there. I meant to say, “Unless your approach…”

  • hdj

    I wanna give this movie a chance, I really do , but If your going to use the selling point of the movie to be like a “Bourne” like movie, it should at least be as smart as one, and not seem like something Jean Claude Van Damme would take in a heartbeat.
    Killings Neesons daughter might not make any profit, but at least they could try to make a clean get away, and turn her into a cold case.

  • fuggle

    Am I the only person bothered by how this whole movie seems like it’s nothing more than a long exercise in porn-as-violence fueled by the idea once more of a family member – as usual, a woman – reduced seemingly to nothing more than a macguffin / excuse to send the main character on a glorified rampage of mayhem for us to all cheer along to torture and sadism with a rather bland and clear deliniation of good and evil giving him seemingly solid moral authority?

    Or do I just have way the wrong idea from the trailer?

  • Minor spoilers here.

    HDJ: They don’t kill her at first because they don’t believe he is a threat. He is just a scary voice on the phone, half the world away. It is easy to dismiss him. Later, they don’t kill her for two additional reasons. One, he is already there. The damage has already been done, and killing her would only provoke more retribution. There is never anything to gain by killing her. Two, they find out she is a virgin, and that makes her extremely valuable in the sex slave market. I’m sure the quarter to half million they were expecting to get from her would more than cover the cost of training a few more henchmen. In an organization like that, I’m pretty sure people at all but the highest levels are considered completely expendable.

    Shadowen: He never really comments one way or the other. His concern is purely for getting her back safely. He is already devoting 100% of his ass-kicking resources toward her recovery, so you can’t really say that finding out she is going to be sold as a sex slave increases his motivation. The “will he get there in time” feeling is purely there to affect the audience, not Liam, and I believe this is what MaryAnn was reacting against. For me personally, the threat succeeded in its narrative function, because I was on edge and rooting for him to get there in time. Not because I cared about her purity, but because being raped is the worst thing I can imagine, whether or not you are a virgin.

    Regarding whether or not it was stupid of him to announce his intent, the intelligence of the move doesn’t really come into it. He deals with them in a very straightforward manner. He presents them with a choice, and informs them of the consequences of either end of that choice. He does it because there is a slight possibility that he might scare them enough for them to let her go.

  • fuggle: I wouldn’t say he has clear moral authority. In fact, he does at least one thing that is so harsh, it actually shocked me. Not only that, he does it to a completely innocent person, purely because it is the fastest way to get the result he wants. Yes, the people perpetrating the evil acts are clearly evil, but our protagonist is one scary son-of-a-bitch himself.

    That having been said, there is also no sadism in what he does. Every move he makes is with almost surgical precision, and he does nothing that does not serve his goal. Minimum amount of effort to achieve maximum results. Even the fights are economical, and most are over in two strikes or less.

    Rather than violence porn, I would classify it as revenge fantasy, which is a very cathartic form of artistic expression. In a movie like this, violence is a form of language, expressing sentiments of frustration. We are satisfied by it because we see this man taking control of a horrific situation, and it makes us feel like his metaphorically striking blows against that which is scary and uncontrollable in our lives.

  • Accounting Ninja

    I kind of felt the same as fuggle upon seeing this trailer…it left a bad taste in my mouth. Especially the pure daughter threatened by the Big Bad Penis…sigh.

  • hdj

    What are you rabbling about Ninja? Hope you know difference between a giant penis and bunch of scumbag sex traders.

  • JasonJ

    I kind of felt the same as fuggle upon seeing this trailer…it left a bad taste in my mouth. Especially the pure daughter threatened by the Big Bad Penis…sigh.

    I don’t know, I have a daughter who is coming up on 18. Purity notwithstanding, there is nothing I wouldn’t to get her back if she was kidnapped by shitstains. I might not have Liam Neeson Ass Kicking Skills, but I know enough. I guess if you were a man with a daughter, you would understand. So no, when I see the trailer, I see a man who will do everything for his daughter, not a blood engorged member wreaking havoc on all good little girls everywhere..

  • Drew Ryce

    The film has huge plot problems.

    First the premise: sex slavers for money kidnap tourists for sale. Problem is, the tourists kids have daddies with private jets and millions of dollars. These sort of kids trigger massive manhunts that never end. Why not just sell them back to daddy? No muss, no fuss.

    Instead of ‘let her go or I will kill you’ why not ‘how much to let her go’?
    Even if he doesn’t effect a sale he still has a chance of getting a phone dialouge that keeps her safe while they negotiate and he tracks them down.

    Second, Neesons approach: he has found Peter at the airport. He knows the next victem. Instead of following the next victem (which would lead him directly to the red door house) he goes on some stone age jihad killing spree. Why does Neeson start beating on peter at the airport? The airport? Have you ever been to CDG airport? Soldiers with machine guns patroling everywhere. If he follows the victem he makes his move on peter in a place less likely for him to be interupted.

    Finding the one girl in Paris, that has the one jacket of his daughters that he can recognise, is as likely as winning the lottery. Without this wild happening he can kill every Albanian in Europe and not find the red door house. Neeson is supposed to be a cold blooded black ops pro. His plan is to win the lottery.

    The Bad Guys don’t talk to each other: The french cop knows Neeson is a bad m-f. If Neeson doesn’t get back his daughter, if she dies or disappears, then he will spend the next 5 years killing everybody that has anything to do with sex traffic in Paris.
    French cop knows who has taken the daughter (or can pass word to them). So, why don’t the Bad Guys know who he Neeson is and why don’t they just kick her can out on a street corner just to keep the cops happy?

    This sort of film has been done without these plot problems.
    Spartan has the same basic plot line without the obvious errors. In Target the kidnap is revenge motivated which removes the financial silliness.

  • The sexual outlook in this movie bothered me, too. The daughter’s kidnapping is frightening enough on its own, but the movie doesn’t trust in that and instead plays up her Innocence and Purity and makes the whole thing almost more about her virginity than about *her*. She’s seventeen, but behaves more like a twelve-year-old.

    SPOILER!

    Meanwhile, of course, her friend who has had sex and liked it ends up dead. Big surprise.

    END SPOILER!

    And that’s only the beginning of the problems I had with this movie. It’s one of those movies that just makes me mad, because there’s so much potential and it’s mostly squandered. This is why I’m being so hard on it when I know that you really can’t expect much from a flick like this one – wasted potential is probably the thing that drives me craziest when it comes to entertainment.

    Of course, I still shushed my mom to watch the trailer when we went to the movies last weekend. In spite of my frustration with the movie, the trailer remains one of my favorites. It’s almost a story within itself.

    (And THEN they showed the “Watchmen” trailer! Man, they could have just turned the projector off and sent us all home after that and I would have considered it worth the cost of admission.)

  • Accounting Ninja

    So no, when I see the trailer, I see a man who will do everything for his daughter, not a blood engorged member wreaking havoc on all good little girls everywhere..

    SO not what I was saying. You sure have a talent at twisting words around to say what you think they say. The FATHER is not the “penis” I was talking about. It was the the metaphor for the threat of her virginity being lost before he found her.
    (MIND YOU, this is just the *impression* left upon me by the trailer. I have not seen the movie, and I could be wrong. In fact, since MAJ did not write in length about it, I assume it may not have been at offensive levels. But the trailer let a bad taste, and that’s what fuggle was talking about.)

    And sorry, but I am a mother and understand the “raging mother (or father) bear” thing. But I am also a daughter, and I was also the kind of daughter who was fed up with being treated differently than her brother. As if my virginity were a reflection on my family, or my father’s to give away or “guard”. I don’t find it endearing when a father froths at the mouth at the thought of his precious daughter being touched by some boy. But, I am one of those, how you say, feminists, ooga booga. :)

    But this is all neither here nor there. I merely commented on my feelings about a trailer. And as we all know, trailers can lie.

  • JoshB

    As if my virginity were a reflection on my family, or my father’s to give away or “guard”. I don’t find it endearing when a father froths at the mouth at the thought of his precious daughter being touched by some boy

    But this isn’t that situation. Neeson’s character might be uncomfortable with the thought of his daughter being sexually active, but I doubt it would send him on an international killing spree.

    This is specifically about her losing her virginity to rape. Rape is the key word there, not virginity. Do you find it not endearing when a father froths at the mouth at the thought of his daughter being raped? (Rhetorical question. My point is that you seem to be assuming the worst about other people’s motivations.)

  • JasonJ

    SO not what I was saying. You sure have a talent at twisting words around to say what you think they say. The FATHER is not the “penis” I was talking about. It was the the metaphor for the threat of her virginity being lost before he found her.

    Really, I thought I interpreted what you said accurately. Maybe I phrased it incorrectly, but I never said anything about the father being the penis. I understood exactly what you meant. Oh well, imperfect communication. I am at a disadvantage having not seen the movie. The impression I have is he does not want any harm to come to his daughter, not just rape.

    As far as being a feminist, just try not to cut your nose off to spite your face. It’s okay to have your father, or any man actually care about you even if you don’t agree with it. Maybe it would be better if your father ignored you and didn’t give a shit if you were out sleeping with every dumb-ass boy that comes along. You’re damn straight daughters get treated different, they are the ones stuck with the kid when the boys take off after knocking her up.

    It’s not that we as fathers don’t want some boy touching our daughters, it’s that we want our daughters to get an education and make solid independent lives for themselves, not be strapped with a kid at 17 and their lives ending before it starts. If you think that takes away your power as a woman, then you must not be a feminist.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Maybe it would be better if your father ignored you and didn’t give a shit if you were out sleeping with every dumb-ass boy that comes along.

    See, this is what I’m talking about. You wildly switch from one extreme to the other. What I want, as a female, is to have my judgement trusted like any son’s. To be educated, but not assumed an idiot incapable of taking care of myself. That’s all. You assume a lot about my particular philosophies as a feminist.

    This is specifically about her losing her virginity to rape. Rape is the key word there, not virginity. Do you find it not endearing when a father froths at the mouth at the thought of his daughter being raped? (Rhetorical question. My point is that you seem to be assuming the worst about other people’s motivations.)

    Of course, rape is terrible. All I said was the trailer left a bad taste in my mouth. You and Jason are the ones making assumptions.

    As a game, let’s reverse all the genders here: a mother, former bad-ass whatever, has to go rescue her teenage son, abducted by sex traffickers who want to sell him as a sex slave. Doesn’t have the same visceral impact?? Why not? Because young men can’t really be raped? Because the boy is thought strong or resourceful enough not to have to be “rescued” (and therefore emasculated) by his mother? Such a movie would never, ever be made. Simply because these movies rely on the sympathy for the virginal waif, something which a teenage boy would fail to illicite.

  • Accounting Ninja

    SPOILER!

    Meanwhile, of course, her friend who has had sex and liked it ends up dead. Big surprise.

    END SPOILER!

    Sorry to double post, but thanks Cathryn, I also knew about this joyful little nugget, but since I hadn’t actually seen the flick, I didn’t want to risk taking it out of context. But my suspicions are confirmed…

    If this had simply been a “child kidnapped” story, fine. But the emphasis on a girl’s sexuality and purity (or lack thereof) IS bothersome to me. As far as we come, it’s not far enough.

  • JoshB

    I’m not making any assumptions. I’m going by what you said. You said (paraphrasing slightly): “As if (her) virginity were (her) father’s to give away or “guard.”” That’s what I was responding to.

    Doesn’t have the same visceral impact?? Why not? Because young men can’t really be raped? Because the boy is thought strong or resourceful enough not to have to be “rescued” (and therefore emasculated) by his mother?

    Are you kidding? Doesn’t have the same visceral impact? To who? I can tell you that on the list of ‘Things I Hope Never Happen To Me’ being raped comes in somewhere between testicular cancer and being eaten by a bear.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Are you kidding? Doesn’t have the same visceral impact? To who? I can tell you that on the list of ‘Things I Hope Never Happen To Me’ being raped comes in somewhere between testicular cancer and being eaten by a bear.

    Well, of course! But would a movie be made of it? No, and that’s the double standard. Your response only strengthens what I was talking about. I’m not talking real life here, strictly movies. The situation that the girl is in is terrible, and it would be for a boy or a girl, child or adult. What I found distasteful was the emphasis IN THE TRAILER on HER purity and sexuality, which was unfortunately (mildly) confirmed by MAJ and (less mildly) by Cathryn.

    I’m probably not going to get any of the guys here to see my point. Sorry to sound condescending, but maybe you had to have grown up as a girl to understand. To be treated differently than your brothers or male cousins. To have your budding sexuality thought of as a looming threat. To have your male relatives be assumed “in control” of their sexual desires, but to have yours treated as though you were mindlessly at the whims of any boy who paid you interest, and that you had zero integrity: if someone pressured you, you were going to cave.

    And I was actually raised in a fairly liberal home! These attitudes are just very ingrained. And all this has nothing to do per se with anything in this movie. I’m just trying to put you in a young girl’s shoes (and a woman who remembers being a young girl) so that you don’t assume that my complaints stem from man-hating or irrationality, or even contempt of a father’s love.

  • hdj

    Ninja, its seems to me , that have some warped vision that this movie should feature some 15 year old combatant girl , who kicks and punchs her way out the slums of scum. That movie would suck, you know why because it would have the same glam as Hannah Montana no matter how rough and gruff they make it. Dogs make better action movies then cats, get over it.

  • JasonJ

    Ninja,I don’t want to make assumptions about your feminism, it isn’t really fair so I’ll apologize for that. My wife is a self proclaimed feminist and thinks along the lines of what I consider constructive feminism. She is strong, highly intelligent, and has the drive to excel without help from men. She is also realistic enough to know that sometimes she needs help, even if it comes in the form of a man. She appreciates everyone regardless of what dangles betwixt the legs.

    What I consider a destructive feminist is a woman who hates all men, thinks the world would be better if all men disappeared tomorrow, and causes nothing but conflict and strife in her world for some perceived benefit. Then as soon as she needs help, she uses the nearest man that will get it done all the while continuing her irrational man-hate. I spent 11 years in the Army observing these abhorent creatures, they are a disgrace to their gender, and all they do is set women back two decades.

    What I want, as a female, is to have my judgement trusted like any son’s. To be educated, but not assumed an idiot incapable of taking care of myself. That’s all.

    I hear you, and I appreciate this. I guess that is life. People either do too much or not enough, we expect perfection from everyone but fail at the way we treat people. For what it’s worth, men don’t really trust their son’s judgement either. Not until they are 30…

  • filmanatic

    I am a bit confused by all the focus on virginity, rape, and sexuality. To clarify: I saw the sexuality portrayed as sick, violent business – I just didn’t think that had a lot to do with Neeson’s motivation. At the time that Neeson talks to the kidnappers on the phone he has no idea of their intentions. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter to him. I believe that he would have gone on the same rampage even had they informed him they just needed somebody to wash their dishes. The point is that they are taking his daughter against her will.

    What struck me about the movie was Neeson’s single-mindedness – his daughter. When he spoke with the kidnapper, he didn’t say “If you release my daughter and her friend…”, only his daughter. He didn’t go on a Chuck Norris ‘save-the-world’ spree – his whole focus was his daughter.

    I think this movie was made to be a fast, kick-ass adventure. It succeeded in that goal.

  • Jerry Colvin

    Isn’t Maggie Grace a bit long in the tooth to be playing a teenager? She was an adult on Lost five years ago!

  • Accounting Ninja

    Thanks, Jason. I definitely do NOT hate men! Thanks for seeing my true intent and not calling me a femi-nazi.

    And, hdj, that is EXACTLY what I want. All my words were just a cover for my real intent: to make Miley Cyrus an action hero. I’m gonna go start an internet petition!!

  • sandra

    Mybe I’m just dense, but I didn’t notice any obsession with purity and sexuality in the trailer. I haven’t seen the movie, so maybe it’s in there, but trailer I saw just has the girl being grabbed by unknown men for unknown purposes, the father making his threat, and then scenes of him carrying it out. Nary a word about virginity.

  • He Who Loved the Movie

    I did see the movie, and I thought it was excellent.

    The “countdown” wasn’t the countdown to rape or violation — it was the “countdown” till when experts say that the trail goes irredeemably cold. Notice that the talk of “Now I have 60 hours” (or whatever) stopped once the trail was actually picked up, the daughter actually in sight, and Neeson was in full pursuit mode. Deadlines became irrelevant once he knew exactly where he needed to go.

    The whole ravish-the-virgin thing did affect the tone of the movie, but only mildly, and only for the audience. It was a bit of a parlor trick, but it had little to do with the plot, and to the extent that it works, it is because we really do have deep-seeded concerns with things like this. I’m not sure that protecting your village’s women from the barbarian hordes is such a bad thing, in the evolutionary scheme of things.

  • JasonJ

    Okay, finally saw the movie, and my wife and I were the only people in the theater. My wife ran around and made shadow puppets during the trailers, it was awesome. Sometimes it is good to live in a small town.

    Anyway, the whole virgin thing only existed as a plot point to keep her alive and be auctioned off as a “pure” specimen. I never felt beaten down with Liam’s character saving her virginity. I really think that was the last thing on his mind. He just wanted to save her. I’m glad it worked out this way, better to see a greasy fat Sheik get his ass handed to him than a bunch of baddies. Thankfully we got both.

    She seemed a little too immature, but after thinking about it, I have seen plenty of 17 year old girls like her. The movies generally show teenagers with a level of maturity and experience that is greater than it really is. There are some mature teens out there, but most have that spastic young lack of control feature. I have seen people in their 20’s act like this girl does. I have been around a lot of teens, and for every Juno there are 3000 girls like the one in this movie.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Also, since somebody brought this up again,

    SPOILER

    it’s worth mentioning, in light of previous comments, that Liam’s character does what he does not even knowing that his daughter is a virgin. He doesn’t find that bit out until almost the end of the movie. It’s irrelevant to his motives. All it does is extend the movie by setting up another round of bad guys for him to wade through.

  • MaryAnn

    It’s worth noting that a character’s motives can be different from a movie’s motives. The Neeson dad just wants to save his daughter’s life. The movie, however, wants to titillate the audience with the prospect of the daughter’s deflowering. We can appreciate the dad’s motives as respectable while decrying the attitudes of the filmmakers as less worthy of celebration.

  • Mathias

    I saw no evidence of this movie titillating us with his daughter’s deflowering. Even at the end when her time comes, it’s from a place of dread and we, the audience, are cheering Liam Neeson to get there in time before the guy lays his hands on her.

    And i find your statment, retro ideas about feminine purity, disturbing. Maybe if there weren’t men out there willing to pay extra for virgins, this idea wouldn’t be so prevalent. Speaking for myself, i was personally ashamed of my gender after watching this. I thought the cinematic deaths of terrorists and nazis were the only one’s absolutely no one would object to but these guys give even them a run for their money.

    I may not fully understand how women feel about a father trying to preseve his daughter’s virginity, but a film about a father trying to protect his daughter from the international human trafficing of sex trade workers is something no one should have mixed feelings about.

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