Never underestimate the determination of a father looking to rescue his abducted daughter, especially when that dad happens to have over two decades of counterintelligence training on his side in addition to a bit of a protective streak when it comes to his little girl.
Taken follows Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) in his pursuit to find his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) after he learns that she’s been kidnapped during her trip to Paris. We learn early in the film that Mills loves his daughter very much. So much, in fact that he was willing to retire early and move out to California just so he could live near her. Kim’s mom (Famke Janssen) is married to a rich guy who dotes on Kim and casts a pretty big shadow over Mills, but that doesn’t stop Bryan from trying to get to know his daughter as she grows up. He isn’t happy that Kim is going to Paris with her friend but he goes along with it, not wanting to be the bad guy. His apprehension was spot on as Kim and her friend aren’t in Paris an hour before they’re targeted as the young, naïve travelers they are and snatched up by Albanian Mafia people looking to make some money off them.
When Mills finds out what’s happened, he takes off for Paris, knowing there’s only a short window of time for him to find her and hopefully save her from the short life of drugs and prostitution she’s now destined for. Using his government training and his resources in Paris, Mills sets out to track Kim down, leaving a trail of injured and dead bodies in his wake.
There’s a certain easiness about the film in that it’s set up from the beginning that Mills is two things: a loving father and a top-notch protector. As a father, he doesn’t have the kind of money Kim’s stepdad has, so he can’t buy her a horse for her birthday but we see right away that he does put a lot of effort into connecting with Kim. We also get a taste of Mills’ skill as a “preventer” when he takes a quick job as a bodyguard for a pop-singer who is in town for a concert. But it’s when we see him take on the people standing between him and his daughter after she’s been abducted that we truly understand what this guy is all about. The pace of the film is perfect for this kind of movie. Once Neeson sets foot in Paris, it’s pretty much non-stop until the end.
What surprised me about Neeson’s performance was how well he managed to blend that soft spoken demeanor with that of a man armed with government training and a mission to accomplish. Neeson portrays Mills not only as a loving father but also as a calculating man who knows how to stay calm under pressure and keep his eyes and ears open even when he’s pummeling thugs, pimps and other bad-guy types. You get the impression that this is a guy with eyes in the back of his head, who never loses his cool and always knows how to anticipate his opponent’s next move. And you can understand why his daughter waited until she was almost an adult to ask her dad what he did for a living, fearing it was something bad.
When I first saw Taken in the theater, part of me wondered if Mills’ pursuit was a little too easy. Most of the people he fights are no match for his training, despite his age (It seems as though everyone he fights is at least a decade younger than him). Putting that aside, the film’s entertainment level isn’t reliant solely on fight sequences. The story of Mills’ relationship with his daughter added to his efforts to track her down, including doing investigative work while in Paris make for a well thought out and suspenseful story.
The cover of the DVD sells this movie beautifully. It features a shadowy profile of Neeson clutching a gun and the words, “I will find you. I will kill you.” Taken on Blu-Ray comes with two discs. One carries the film and all of the special features that go with it, while the other contains a digital copy of the movie that can be used with iTunes, iPods, iPhones or your PlayForSure-compatible portable device.
You’ll find both the extended and theatrical version of the film on the other disc. I watched the extended version and to be honest, I couldn’t tell the difference between this and what I saw in the theaters. Among the special features is a making-of featurette, which takes you behind the scenes of the film. There’s also a behind the scenes look at the premiere, which includes footage of Neeson and his recently deceased wife, Natasha Richardson.
While those two featurettes are interesting and moderately entertaining, the best of the behind the scenes features is the “Inside Action Side-by-Side Scene Comparisons,” which splits the screen between different scenes and shows how it looks in the film as opposed to how it looked when they were filming it. It’s amusing to watch Neeson throw fake-punches and watch people getting pretend-shot from the before-editing/after-editing perspectives.
There are two commentaries on the disc. The first features Director Pierre Morel, Cinematographer Michel Abramowicz and Car Stunt Supervisor Michel Juliene commenting on the extended cut of the film. They’re French, so expect subtitles but if you’re interested in learning some inside information on the making of the movie, the commentary delivers. The second commentary features Co-Screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, who talks about the film from the story-perspective. Not only will English-speaking viewers appreciate not having to read this commentary, but if you’re interested in getting a better understanding of the story and character development, Kamen does a great job of fleshing it out and explaining various aspects of the movie.
My favorite of all of the special features on this Blu-ray DVD is the Black Ops Field Manual. It’s essentially a Black Ops version of Pop-Up Video. As the movie plays, facts about the reality of black-ops, human trafficking and that whole aspect of the film pop up throughout. There’s also a meter at the top of the screen that ticks off the injured count, fatality count, time remaining (from when Kim is taken to how long Mills has to get her before she’s likely to be lost forever), and distance traveled. Additionally little maps that pop up to point out the exact location of certain events. It’s a cool way to watch the movie and it’s also fun to see the numbers shoot up after each fight-scene.
Taken on Blu-ray offers a nice selection of special features that will definitely enhance your viewing experience if you love this film as much as I do.