It's been just too long waiting for an action thriller that will knock my socks off, given too many bland attempts that left me wondering if the genre is too tired for my liking, with nothing left to wow. Then comes the Europa Corp team of Pierre Morel directing a Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen story, and Taken now ranks as one of my contemporary favourites for its simple story executed with so much style and gripping pace, that you'll be left breathless by the time the end credits roll.
The trailer had one of the best monologues that I'm sure would have put many in the theatres, and probably be representative of the film. You have a stoic looking Liam Neeson as a father who tells the stranger at the end of the other line the conditions that the game will be played in, with perhaps bluff calling against bluff, only for the challenge and gauntlet to be thrown. From then on it's a non-stop adrenaline rush because this daddy happens to be a top ex-covert operative for the US government, so the bad guys essentially have chosen a wrong opponent to play the game with.
The story worked well in dipping into some familiar fears, where daddy's little girl Kim (Maggie Grace) tells her dad lie after lie so as to cover up her tracks in wanting to do things she knows he would disapprove of. Such as, in this case, going on a tour of museums in Paris supposedly, rather than letting him know of her intent of being a groupie with friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) chasing U2 all over Europe. Some may dismiss this fear as paranoia, but I think that heightened sense of awareness is a by product occupational hazard, and it's always better to err on the side of caution. For any parent who are confident of their kid's conduct, there is absolutely no guarantees that their kids' friends would toe the same line, and there are often those who are magnets for trouble due to their thrill seeking. As is in this case where you see supposed safeguards to lower risks being systematically peeled away.
With his reluctant consent and lessons being thrown in on very simple survival tips (that would even serve well in real life), things still go wrong according to Murphy, and Liam Neeson's Brian has to race against time in finding a needle in the perennial haystack, relying on contacts and skills built over the years in carrying out government missions of prevention to save masses, now to put them into something more personal when addressing what could be any parent's worst nightmare, in having their daughters sold to the sex slave trade.
Action-wise, Morel employs a whole host of fights ranging from gun battles, knives and the good ol' fisticuffs, with Neeson employing some cool Shinsai Goshin Kai moves for close quarter combats to take out opponents. You might balk at how it's probably another one man army movie with the hero ripping through the streets of Paris, but this borders close to the Jason Bourne movies in the way opponents are dispatched without remorse and without much bullshit. It's clinical as it is deadly, just the way I suppose anyone would do so without the very hokey monologues that plague lesser films prior to each kill. The action direction was top notch without resorting to cheap MTV styled quick cuts, and had kept the shaky-cam syndrome at bay, which in turn provided for a pure adrenaline rush for action junkies out there.
Taken well deserved its accolades and I say again, one of the best action thrillers to have hit the screen of late after a number of bland peers. I highly recommend this and it's a shoo-in as a contender for top films of this year. See if you can spot that SQ plane flying overhead in a scene too!