In essence, Taken is the modern day successor to Mel Gibson’s 90s hit Ransom. At its heart is the kidnapping of a child, and a father’s vow to follow unconventional means to get said child back.
And just like Ransom, Taken is full of holes and problems. Why on earth would a caring father risk their child by going on the rampage? How many contrivances do you need to get yourself back on the scent? How come the local coppers don’t interject when you cause all sorts of mayhem? Yet, Taken has an ace in its corner that manages to lift you above the generally hokum plot and fairly tepid script. And that ace is Liam Neeson.
Neeson is a man who doesn’t get too many leading roles, but when someone does trust him with top billing, he has a habit of devouring the part in question. Whatever your take on the politics of Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins, Neeson’s performance at the heart of it is quite brilliant. And in Taken, the whole film hinges on whether you buy Neeson as the kind of hard-nosed bastard who’d stay calm on the phone while his daughter was being snatched, and would then travel thousands of miles on a single-man mission to seize her back. Bluntly, you do, and while the film happily shows cracks all around him, when Neeson starts describing the kind of skills he has and how he’s going to use them to track his plainly-stupid daughter down, you buy it. No questions asked. Never mind the paper-thin characters, the two dimensional ex-wife, her sappy boyfriend or any of that nonsense. This is a Liam Neeson vehicle, and he absolutely makes the most of it.
Still, no matter how hard he tries, he can’t cover all of the film’s problems, and so it then pulls out a second wise move, in that it keeps the running time brief. That way, you really can just sit back and enjoy the ride, and the film’s gone before you’re inclined to call bullshit on it. You switch your brain off, they give you 90 minutes of solid entertainment. Turns out, it’s a fair exchange.
The Blu-ray presentation of the film, as you’d hope from such a modern feature, is very good. At times, the picture quality is excellent, although it doesn’t hold that standard right the way through the movie. You get moments of apparent inconsistency and murkiness that just take the edge off the transfer a little. The audio is better, with the expansive soundstage particularly bursting into life with the film’s vibrant action sequences.
The extras? They’re passable. There’s a decent enough Making Of to make your way through, along with a look at how certain scenes were put together. You also get premiere footage, and a mission intelligence feature. The latter is intriguing but a bit odd. It does things like keep track of the body count and shows you maps and such like. It’s a novelty, and one we dispensed with fairly quicky.
Ultimately, Taken is an unspectacular film bolstered by a very strong leading performance, and strangely has appeared on disc in the UK while it’s bringing in big bucks at the US box office. Liam Neeson certainly deserves the success, though, and while the disc is okay, here’s hoping it ends up in some casting director’s offices, and they give the big man some more major roles such as this.
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