Even if its plot is straightforward, a thriller can thrill, as long as the story is told with drive and style, and the 2008 movie Taken is a good example of this. Taken stars Liam Neeson as retired CIA man Bryan Mills, whose wife has found a second husband who is richer and more suave, and with whom Mills’ adored 17 year old daughter Kim now lives. Mills reluctantly agrees to Kim going off on an extended holiday in Europe with a girlfriend, but when the pair are kidnapped hours after arriving in Paris, he springs into action, determined to rescue Kim.
I suppose everyone who watches this film will expect Mills to triumph in the end, and of course they are not disappointed. But the predictability doesn’t matter much, because Neeson plays the veteran hero with utter conviction, and after a careful opening, in which his motivation is established, the pace becomes relentless.
So we have vertiginous clambering around an apartment block, high-speed car chases, and shoot-outs aplenty, as well as the obligatory uncharacteristic lapse of concentration on the hero’s part which leaves him facing imminent execution. I thought it was very well done, and the film was short enough to allow me no time to ponder the improbability of it all.
If it’s an undemanding slice of entertainment that you’re after, I can recommend Taken, which I’d put alongside the Bourne films as an illustration of the way in which rather formulaic plot elements can be turned into a gripping and truly enjoyable action film. And Neeson, who made this movie not long before the utterly tragic death of his wife, Natasha Richardson, is absolutely excellent.