English-language French action thriller film written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, and directed by Pierre Morel. It stars Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Olivier Rabourdin, Xander Berkeley and Holly Valance.
Already in his fifties at the time of filming, Oscar-nominated actor Liam Neeson reinvented his career as an A-list action hero with the role of “Bryan Mills”. Although he had some action experience from his work in “Darkman”, “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” and “Rob Roy”, the success of “Taken” led to two box-office hit sequels, and further action movies featuring Neeson as tough, determined, no-nonsense heroes in movies such as “Non-Stop”, “Run All Night”, “A Walk Among the Tombstones”, “The Commuter” and “Cold Pursuit”.
Although in her mid-twenties at the time of filming, actress Maggie Grace stars as Bryan’s 17 year-old daughter “Kim Mills”. James Bond‘s foe from “Goldeneye” and the “X-Men” movies’ original Jean Grey, Famke Janssen takes a back seat from the action as Bryan’s ex-wife “Lenore Mills-St. John”. French actor Olivier Rabourdin plays former French intelligence agent “Jean-Claude Pitrel”, an old friend of Bryan’s. American character actor Leland Orser plays Bryan’s closest friend and former work colleague “Sam Gilroy”.
Xander Berkeley plays Lenore’s wealthy new husband and Kim’s stepfather “Stuart St. John”. He will be familiar to martial arts movie fans from his role as Nathan Van Cleef in Jackie Chan‘s action comedy “Shanghai Noon“. Making a guest appearance as fictional pop star “Sheerah” is Australian actress Holly Valance. She would go on to appear in a martial arts action role herself in the movie adaptation of the popular video game “DOA: Dead or Alive“.
A retired CIA agent, Bryan Mills is trying to rebuild the relationship with his 17 year-old daughter Kim, having neglected it due to the nature of his work. To make the situation more awkward, Kim lives with his ex-wife Lenore and a wealthy stepfather, Stuart.
Having gained Bryan’s reluctant permission, Kim travels to Paris with her best friend Amanda. When they arrive in France however, they are targeted by an Albanian sex trafficking ring. Bryan hears them being taken over the phone and promises the kidnappers that if they do not let his daughter go he will find them, and he will kill them.
Heading to Paris with the slimmest of clues, Mills must call on his particular set of skills that have been acquired over a number of years as a black ops agent. With an estimated 96 hours before Kim disappears forever, it’s a race against the clock between a vicious gang, corrupt officials and a deadly-determined father.
From the opening minutes it is quickly established that not only is Bryan Mills’ daughter everything to him, but he is a man of preparation and precision. Even the way he wraps a gift or fills a photo album is done with absolute exactness and attention to the smallest detail. We also learn from his friends’ reminiscences that he has had a clandestine career serving the U.S. government.
Our first glimpse of his “particular set” of fighting skills comes when Mills protects a pop singer from a knife wielding maniac. As you would expect, Mills responds swiftly and efficiently. All the establishing scenes mean that when we get to the famous “I will find you, and I will kill you” phone call, you believe absolutely that Mills is a man of his word.
The action ante is soon upped when our hero locates his first suspect in Paris. Neeson looks totally convincing performing the highly economical fighting skills himself. This isn’t the flashy, extravagant choreography of many a martial arts flick, but a showcase for the no-nonsense incapacitating of an opponent using the most direct techniques possible. There are no spinning kicks here when a sharp ridge hand to the throat will do the job.
Faced with multiple foes, Mills has to combine intelligent strategy with his direct approach, utilising his environment to take them all down. He is equally precise and efficient when dealing with bladed weapons or firearms. An interrogation scene in which Mills discusses the efficiency of the electricity further underlines his ruthless streak.
As the film builds to its conclusion, like a human Terminator, Mills absolutely will not stop until his daughter is safe. With Kerambits, guns and even fire extinguishers thrown into the mix, “Taken” delivers some of the best movie fighting seen in a European- produced movie.
Taken -Liam Neeson’s Top 10 Bad Ass Moments
Coming from the film makers that brought us European-based action films such as “Kiss of the Dragon“, “The Transporter” and “District 13“, “Taken” was a surprising breath of fresh air when it arrived in 2008. The fighting action was brought back down-to-earth with an economy of movement that would make even John Wick nod in admiration. With a running time of 90 minutes, the movie itself is as efficient as the action sequences that populate its simple premise and plot.
Even though Liam Neeson was in his mid-fifties when this film turned him into an unlikely action star, he looks like he knows exactly what he is doing, whether it be in hand-to-hand combat, using a knife, or firing a gun. The “Making of” feature on the DVD illustrates just how much of the action Neeson impressively performed himself, including the fighting, shooting, and diving through windows and over furniture!
It allows him to convincingly portray Bryan Mills as a master craftsman in wiping out bad guys. He also plays the role of a father obsessed with the smallest details and his child’s well-being, with conviction. This added emotional core to the plot elevates “Taken” above other Euro-action thrillers, establishing it as a modern action classic that launched a hugely profitable franchise.
A film with great “re-watch” value, “Taken” is one to stick on when you’re looking for a robust and entertaining action fix!
- “Taken” grossed $145 million in North America and $81.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $226.8 million, against a production budget of $25 million.
- Jeff Bridges was first cast as Bryan Mills, but after he dropped out of the project Liam Neeson accepted the part, desiring to play a more physically demanding role than he was used to. Bridges eventually saw the film, and said Neeson was a much better choice for the role.
- Former Special Air Service (SAS) soldier Mick Gould trained Liam Neeson in combatives and weapons handling skills to prepare him for the role. Gould is famous for sharing his technical expertise on the Robert De Niro-starring movies “Heat” and “Ronin”.
- The martial art style used by Liam Neeson is Nagasu Do, a hybrid martial art style derived by Mick Gould that borrows from Judo, Aikido, and Jiu Jitsu.
- The curved knife used in the final fight is a “karambit“. It is a Filipino weapon, and the finger hole in the handle makes it very difficult to disarm, which was evident in the fight scene.
- “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.” – Bryan Mills
- “Good luck.” – Marko
- “You either give me what I need or this switch will stay on until they turn the power off for lack of payment on the bill.” – Bryan Mills
- “You don’t remember me? We spoke on the phone two days ago. I told you I would find you.” – Bryan Mills
- “Please understand… it was all business. It wasn’t personal.” – Saint Clair
- “It was all personal to me.” – Bryan Mills