Taken DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

Taken is the real deal, folks, the perfect convergence of an old-school vengeance story with the slick stylized action of today that belongs on your shelf if you’re a fan of either of those two.
  • OVERALL
    4.5
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
Practically everything - amazing performances, direction, writing - a wonderful hybrid of the old and new schools of filmmaking
THE BAD
Just the inkling that all this can happen in real life so fast... but it's a fairly minor argument.
THE FEATURE
Taken was one of those movies that I never really paid much attention to. Sure, I like Liam Neeson as much as the next guy, but I'm sketchy of any January release (any September release as well), and it just didn't seem super-exciting. Then the reviews started to come in, and the film kept doing well... and wouldn't stop doing well and I honestly can't remember anyone who's said a single bad thing about this movie... and I'm not about to break that streak myself, because Taken is an outstanding action thriller.

At its core, the film is essentially a blend between Commando and any one of the Jason Bourne movies. The film centers on an ex-covert operative named Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) who quits the life to try and piece together a relationship with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) who he barely knew while she was growing up because of his work. Now she's 17 and he's trying his hardest, despite the deflections from his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), who now lives in the lap of luxury with a tycoon of some sort named Stuart (Xander Berkeley). When Kim asks Bryan to lunch, he sees it as a big step in building a relationship... but she comes with Lenore and basically wants him to sign a form that will allow her to leave the country to go to Paris with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy). Naturally, any ex-covert-ops-agent-father would be concerned, and he has his misgivings, but signs the paper anyway and off Kim and Amanda go to gay Paris. But it only takes a chance encounter with a cute Parisian boy and the next thing you know it, men storm into their apartment and grab Amanda and Kim sees the whole thing while talking to her dad, and when Kim is taken, Bryan springs into action in incredible ways.

Honestly, I didn't even really need to tell you most of that. I could've just said that this dude who's an ex-government-bad-ass has his daughter taken and he tracks the bastards down, mowing down anyone in his path until he gets his daughter back... something like that. I mentioned this whole setup because this script by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen set the whole thing up very effectively and succinctly, and there's even quite a bit that I left out as well. The film moves rather swiftly through these opening moments as well, but when Bryan gets to France, the petal is to the metal the entire way until the end credits, and this powerhouse of a film is just awesome to watch. The film is not only incredibly fast-paced, but there really isn't a whole lot of dialogue in the film as well. There are a lot of fight scenes and a lot of stalking-his-prey kinds of scenes, so this isn't a very chatty film at all, but I will say that when anyone does talk in the film, it's authentic and to the point. Of course, it helps to have such amazing talents as Liam Neeson, whose masterful and intense delivery of his phone exchange with his daughter's kidnapper is one of the film's highlights, and just goes to show how effective minimalism is in the right hands, both in writing and acting. If you would've given those lines to most actors, with most director's directing them, I'm sure you would've seen something akin to Clint Eastwood's final speech in Unforgiven. However, Neeson commands the screen with raw, sublime intensity, captured exquisitely by Morel, and this pivotal moment is what really sinks you into the film, and it's just so amazingly well-done.

All of the supporting roles are fairly small, but all fairly important to varying degrees, and I definitely enjoyed Maggie Grace as the na&#239ve Kim (whose chops can be seen on the other end of the spectrum later in the film), the always-lovely Famke Janssen as the ex Lenore, Xander Berkeley as Stuart and the lovely Katie Cassidy as Amanda. Even the equally-lovely Holly Vallance has probably the smallest part here as a pop star named Sheerah, but she's just as important in her own way, and I really dig the sensibilities of this kind of writing that makes the corny clich&#233 come true, that there are no small parts... just small actors.

That being said, the films real stars share the spotlight equally, in my opinion, with Liam Neeson, director Pierre Morel and the writing team of Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen forming an incredible tripod of success here. Liam Neeson delivers a smashing performance (both literally and figuratively) as Bryan Mills, as his performance draws you in deeper to his plight and you even continue to cheer for him, even as he makes some rather questionable decisions to get the truth. For a 90-minute movie, Besson and Kamen have poured in more complexity and sincere emotion into such a short film that it's almost uncanny, also relying on an economy of very efficient language, that less is more and, literally, show not tell. This is Morel's second feature film (with District B13 his first), after a long career as a camera operator, director of photography and other occupations under Luc Besson, and Morel is quite a talent to behold indeed. Morel is obviously adept to a much quicker pace than most American films move at, but even the ones that do don't have nearly the kind of heart to it that Taken does. While the logistics of this whole movie, that all this can happen in such a short period of time in the film, did bug me a little, but perhaps it's because not many films are as efficient with damn-near everything the way this film is, to the point where I was expecting some sort of filler that wasn't needed. Pierre Morel is simply one outstanding director, and I can only hope he has a script from Besson and Kamen to work from and, one could pray, Neeson leading the cast, because I would simply love to see what this trio could do with another story.

Taken was "the little engine that could," so to speak, at the box office, and I hope people just can't stop buying it on the shelves, because this is simply a fantastic film. It dispenses with the trickery and tomfoolery so absurdly present in American cinema and just presents a simple story in a highly stylized yet efficient way. This is no-frills filmmaking at its finest, and it's the kind of film that I absolutely need to see more of from Hollywood these days.
THE EXTRAS
We don't get a ton of material on this two-disc edition (the second disc of which is just the Digital Copy of the flick), but there is some quality material here. We start off with Le Making Of, and it's pretty standard, as we get stuff from director Pierre Morel and star Liam Neeson along with Maggie Grace. We get some interesting stuff from Morel in how they filmed certain parts, like the abduction scenes were filmed with Maggie Grace doing the screams in the next room, so Neeson could actually hear her screams. We also have Morel talking about certain locations they shot, including Morel's approach to the opposite-way chase scene that was his answer to The Bourne Supremacy, in that they tried to top it by filming it at night. We also get some stuff with Neeson and Grace about Morel and how they enjoyed working with him. It's a very nice 18-minute featurette that kicks these features off in style.

Avant Premiere is next and this takes us inside the Paris premiere of the film. It's an interesting little collage of images and video from the French premiere and a slew of audience reactions after watching the film. It's only a few minutes long, but it's worth a look.

The only other thing we get here, besides the Trailers, is a Inside Action: Side by Side Comparisions. There are six of these in which they show some of the final shots of the film with some of the rehearsals, because Morel said in the first featurette how there was a lot of rehearsal involved here because of the unrelenting pace. We get a look inside the scene where the first guy Neeson meets gets away... and dies, the wonderful construction-site car chase, one of the big shootouts, the torture scene, Neeson's escape scene and the final action scene/shoot-out. It's a very nice 11-minute little feature that shows us some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into what would be some of the final shots of the film. A very nice way to end these features.
THE VIDEO
The film is presented in the widescreen format in the super-wide 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
THE AUDIO
The sound is handled through the Dolby Digital 5.1 format.
THE PACKAGE
I got a screener disc, but the front cover looks simple but effective. It's basically the one-sheet for the film, set in black with a shot of Neeson holding a gun dominating the front with the title card, "2-disc Extended Cut" card and the wonderful, simple and effective tagline: "I will find you. I will kill you." Awesome. Not sure what's on the back though.
THE FINAL WORD
Taken is the real deal, folks, the perfect convergence of an old-school vengeance story with the slick stylized action of today that belongs on your shelf if you're a fan of either of those two.

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Comments (7)

  1. Brian Gallagher

    I don't think that's unrealistic at all. It's not like he just got done training at that age haha. It was his career and those skills don't go away with age... and when you're in that kind of situation, where it's life or death for a loved one, I have to imagine he'd be running on pure adrenaline most of the time anyway. I friggin loved it!:)

    6 years agoby @gallagherFlag

  2. Buckshot

    Great Review. Yes it was a 4 plus star movie, but an over-the-hill middle aged one man army with martial arts skills of a 5th degree master in Akido is unrealitic, even though he did get winded running after the boat near the end. Go figure????

    6 years agoby @buckshotFlag

  3. Brian Gallagher

    Thanks for all the props guys. It's well worth the wait, Shelley, trust me. I didn't see it in theaters either. So awesome! Take care guys!

    Peace in. Gallagher out!

    6 years agoby @gallagherFlag

  4. Macama

    Please responed on my page

    6 years agoby @macamaFlag

  5. Macama

    Great review.Was there any difference in the extened edition and the theatrical edition

    6 years agoby @macamaFlag

  6. 313td

    Great review.

    6 years agoby @313tdFlag

  7. Shelley

    Great review as always Gallagher. Going to pick up a copy myself this afternoon - looking forward to finally being able to see it.

    6 years agoby @shelleyFlag