by: Matthew J.R. Kohler
Since 2009’s Taken, Liam Neeson has become this generation’s action star. Interestingly, it is the first and only good action film that Neeson has done (unless you count The Grey). Taken was released in January, a month infamous for where new movies go to die. But, it blew away all expectations by wowing critics and audiences, and making a pile of money. When the movie came out, everyone was talking about it. Even today, seven years later, I hear or see people talking about or making fun of the famous monologue that begins with “I don’t know who you are”. The success of Taken created a wave in the action genre, inspiring numerous replicas and two sequels of its own (all of which we will not talk about today). Despite its influence on the action genre, I argue that Taken is not such an action film, but is instead a suspense thriller.
To make an action movie good, you have to have memorable set pieces and action sequences. T2 would not be what it is without its amazing action scenes. I could never re-watch Bruce Lee fights if he was not amazing at fighting. In the case of Taken, though, the most exciting scenes are not the fight scenes. In fact, because of how poor the editing is in such scenes, it is obvious that Neeson is not the one fighting. Also, the action itself is very slow. I noticed this in the final fight. The main villain and Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) move very slow for trained agents.
Let’s look at The Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. In the film, Ford is framed and chased for murdering his wife. While on the run from the authorities, he searches for the murderer. The action scenes, although realistic, are not what make this movie intriguing today. It is the characters and the chase itself. Throughout the film, I am on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what happens next. Taken is about an agent who has 96 hours to find his daughter before she is lost forever. At the midpoint of the film, the police start chasing him after the chaos he causes in Paris. After Mills’ daughter is kidnapped, the suspense continues to grow. My favorite scene in the film is when Mills is at his friend’s house for dinner. Beforehand, we saw Mills and his friend interact, and the friend seemed off. What we see in this scene is the climax of their relationship.
Like Clint Eastwood, Neeson kills as an action star. The best part about him is how he holds himself. Throughout the film, Mills is confident in what he is doing, never losing his cool. The best example of his character’s collectedness is when he is on the phone with his daughter, moments before she is taken. In the scene, Mills calmly tells his daughter to hide, and that she is going to be kidnapped. From that point on I knew the movie was going to do the unexpected. Not only is he a well-trained agent, but even in the most emotional moments of his life Mills remains calm. He is even calm when shooting his friend’s wife in the leg. These two scenes alone give the movie replay value, in my opinion.
Taken might not be a great action film, but I think it is an amazing thriller. With scenes such as the ones I just discussed, and the scene when he finally meets the main villain, Marco, the movie is downright intense. Although I believe Marco was defeated in the film too early and we didn’t get as big of a payoff as what we should have, Taken is one of the few “action” films today that has broken the generic action film trend. The fight scenes are few and far between, and it has engaging set ups to its exciting moments. Most of all, what makes this movie unique is its lack of pre-release hype. Nobody expected the film to be such a big deal. It was word-of-mouth that led to the movie’s success. Director Pierre Morel and his team crafted a top-notch thriller, and its thrills and absence of over-hype are great examples of what more movies in general should have.
7.5 Out of 10
+ Liam Neeson is amazing in this role
+ Great Suspense
-The action scenes are not impressive
-No main villain that you care to see die