Monday, February 02, 2009

Movie Review: Taken



Less than an hour ago I got out of the theater after seeing Taken with Liam Neeson (playing Bryan Mills). Here are my thoughts.

The overall plot of the film deals with the kidnapping of Mill's daughter while she's on a trip in France. As a retired government agent, he is intent on getting her back. His task immediately becomes more grim and ominous when he learns he is dealing with sex traffickers.

The movie was well-made, convincing, and the plot, of course, draws you in. How could any feeling person not root for Neeson? Clearly such a film will contain fight scenes, and the martial arts are reality-based and thus gritty. Very, very well done. Engagements with guns, knives, and plenty of hand-to-hand combat is given screen time (including plenty of kill blows, might I add). On top of that we have the always-pleasing spy feel: Mills uses contacts, gadgets, and some experience-gained know-how to track down his foes and, hopefully, save his 17 year old daughter. And of course such a plot will be somewhat predictable, but nonetheless I thought this film had a fresh feel to it. (I also noticed that he is always wearing black)

I will give a warning, however. Due to the nature of the plot dealing with sex trafficking, this might not be an easy film for some, perhaps even many, to watch. I commend the filmmakers on their restraint and tasteful treatment of such a gruesome subject--no clear nude or sex scenes are to be seen, however, we still do have plenty of inferences and such. We see women in very revealing clothing, we see scores of girls in rooms waiting for the next buyer to come in (most of them incoherent with drugs), there is even a scene where the "best" girls are being sold at auction for large sums of cash, and more. This may disturb some viewers, and I caution especially any ladies who may be inclined to see this film.

But...on the other hand, I actually liked that they dealt with this subject. Check that, I loved that they dealt with this subject. As a old-fashioned guy who still takes chivalry very seriously (That's right, lefties, we ain't all dead yet!), I believe that the laid-back, laxadaisacal life of so many people today is very, very dangerous, especially for women. Thus, I seriously feel that this subject should have been dealt with and applaud the fact that it finally was shown with such straightforward frankness. We didn't need to see nudity or two people in sex positions, either. This film may be worth a viewing for just that reason. It shows the dangers that women everywhere are in, and the folly of ignoring the warning signs and living life unawares. Mills is security-minded--quite like me, I must say--and is very uncomfortable with his daughter's trip to Paris, and numerous warning signs pop up, but he finally consents to let her go (this makes more sense if you see the movie, one thing being that he clearly loves her more than anything, the whole first part of the film showing this time and time again). It is her companion that is the more naive of the two young girls, and after being unwittingly selected by a friendly, "cute" French guy at the airport who is really a spotter for the traffickers, their fate is sealed (they show him where they're staying---aaaaghh!!). This film shows the folly of the average teenage live-it-up life somewhat, and again, is a stark reminder that our women are not safe in this world. If you want an effective way to help show people the dangers that really lurk in our own world, then show them this film.

With all this, I was ready to love the film. In fact, I would have likely bought it. But...a few reservations. In my opinion, Mills was entirely justified in doing what he did. He uses old contacts to get information, flies to Paris, and begins his work. (Let's not even hear the stuff about "He should have called the police!" Human trafficiking is the second most profitable crime in this world, only drugs exceeding it. Now you think about that for a moment. What makes you think the police would be any more able to find her than they are able to find all the rest of them? And also, the film gives a timeframe of 96 hours for Mills to find her--red tape and police who would clearly be even less adept than he would be nothing but a hindrance, at best.) He fights and kills his way through the underworld, and you know what? In his place, I'd do the same thing, without a moment's hesitation. In fact, his word's to her captors sound like something I would say:

"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you."

That's gonna be the best movie quote of the year!

But on with my reservations. He electrocutes one man to get information out of him. Okay, not too bad. But then after getting that information he leaves him to be electrocuted to death. Another man, again after getting information out of him, gets shot in the head by Mills. Not very heroic, is it? You could possibly get away with that by excusing him with the idea of him killing them so they won't rat on him, warn anyone, or make his job harder, but if you watch the movie, these are clearly revenge killings.

The one worst scene of the film, hands-down, is when Mills shoots a man's wife, again to acquire intel. It is only a flesh wound and he doesn't kill her, but still, this was waaay out of line and nothing like what a true warrior would do. True, he's enraged and sees nothing but his daughter, but still, I mean, come on! He seriously needed a touch of The Dark Knight's restraint in there.

If it hadn't been for these three things, this would have been one awesome movie.

So, if you want some good entertainment, with a great subject and good fight scenes, go ahead and see it if you like. Just remember that Neeson does not always play the hero in this film.

Spencer

23 comments:

olde.fashioned said...

I always love your reviews, and boy I get instant gratification with this one! ;-P In the span of time that it took me to cook dinner, you've put down thoughts that would have taken me hours to compile. ;-)

I agree that it is probably a very good idea for most people to see this movie for the "awareness" value, if not the shock value. It's all too easy to forget that there are still monsters lurking in the shadows out there, waiting to snatch their next unsuspecting victim.

I would also like to point out that women can be their own worst ememies -- if the two girls in this movie hadn't been so shallow, enamoured by the "cute Frenchman" and his flattering attentions, they probably would have been passed up for easier targets. A little vigilance goes a long way...lol, now I sound like Spencer! ;-D Not that that's a bad thing, mind!

P.S. You might want to add a spoiler warning, but that's just me. ;-)

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

A little vigilance goes a long way

That it does. With every little obstacle you throw in their way, be it as small as looking behind your shoulder or keeping your distance from strangers can make the difference.

Spencer

Lady Neferankh said...

Ah--thanks for the review :D! Not sure if this "my sort" of film, but I appreciate the advice, and I didn't find your review "spoilery" at all!

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

I didn't find your review "spoilery" at all!

:-P

You might want to add a spoiler warning

WildWeazel said...

A most excellent review. It makes me want to see the movie even more than I already did!

olde.fashioned said...

looking behind your shoulder or keeping your distance from strangers can make the difference.

I always do that, and if a certain person looks "suspicious" or not exactly normal, I give them an even wider berth.

Not sure if this "my sort" of film

I really don't think I would class this as "my type" of film, either, but it's most certainly worth a watch, and as an eye-opener I would definitely recommend it.

:-P

Alright, allllrriiiiigggghhht!! ;-P

duva said...

OK, feminist rant coming, ye be warned ;)

"As a old-fashioned guy who still takes chivalry very seriously (That's right, lefties, we ain't all dead yet!), I believe that the laid-back, laxadaisacal life of so many people today is very, very dangerous, especially for women."

"I would also like to point out that women can be their own worst ememies -- if the two girls in this movie hadn't been so shallow, enamoured by the "cute Frenchman" and his flattering attentions, they probably would have been passed up for easier targets."

Well, I for one don't understand how the girls could possibly be blamed. And by your reasoning the only thing their "vigilance" would do is letting some other girls take their fall anyway. The problem in all these cases is the men who deal in these twisted affairs whether their victims are friendly and wear short skirts or not.

Naming this (if only partly) a fault of the women involved is in my opinion both a restriction of the personal freedom of all women (being able to act and dress in whatever way they please) and reducing all men to some sexually driven monsters (expecting them to somehow loose control and start committing sexually related crimes as soon as they see lightly dressed girls...).

Then again I haven't seen this particular movie but the princicple is the same I'd guess.

aStorygirl said...

Reviews like yours that take a stand are always interesting to read, even if I don't entirely agree. :) It's interesting that, in your analysis, Taken was restrained in showing sex but not violence - I suppose this reflects general cultural attitudes about what's okay to show on film.

Gravelbelly said...

Thanks for the review. I may go to see this one.

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

duva: Thanks for your comments! While I disagree a little bit, I must say that I entirely agree about the problem being the men who do these sorts of things. If I gave any indication that I thought otherwise, I apologize and am now making myself clear. I cannot say what I think of such males on the internet. ;-D

aStorygirl: Thanks for dropping by, and welcome! As always, when I get a new reader I am curious as to where they found me, etc. so do you mind if I ask? :-) Oh yes, and about violence, I have no problem with violence being shown on screen, or at least this kind of violence. Horror films like the Saw series or the Jason movies = horrible. Gunfights, hand to hand combat and battle sequences? I think those things should be in movies.

Gravelbelly: I thought you might be interested; I was thinking of both you and Stephen writing this review. As I was, you will probably be disgusted with how far he goes, but the film does have some positive aspects. The past few days I've been thinking about it and I'm finding I am inclined to recommend it as an awareness lesson.

And of course, how can a martialist not be taken in with the plot?

Spencer

olde.fashioned said...

Hi Duva! I hope you don't mind if I address a few points I noticed while reading your comment. :-)

Well, I for one don't understand how the girls could possibly be blamed.

I think what Spencer means is, not that girls are in any way to blame for the horrible things that men do, but rather, that girls are sometimes to blame for their own neglectful attitudes towards personal safety. Using the girls in this movie Taken as an example, if they had refused to share a cab with Peter the Frenchman (a perfect stranger, who they had only known for about a grand total of five seconds before they get into a car with him), and especially not telling him they were home alone (!!) in addition to giving him their address and apartment number, they would have been a lot safer and the whole situation would most likely have been avoided.

And by your reasoning the only thing their "vigilance" would do is letting some other girls take their fall anyway.

I'm not sure that I understand this part. Do you mean that girls should be careless, hopefully putting themselves rather than others in dangerous situations so as to spare some other woman from getting attacked?

Naming this (if only partly) a fault of the women involved is in my opinion both a restriction of the personal freedom of all women (being able to act and dress in whatever way they please)

I disagree that suggesting a greater level of awareness and vigilance on the part of all women restricts their personal freedoms in any way. Again, using Taken as an example, I don't recall any references to the girls being abducted because of what they were wearing. Rather, they made themselves easy targets by being foolishly blinded by "a cute guy" who was pretending to be nice.

reducing all men to some sexually driven monsters (expecting them to somehow loose control and start committing sexually related crimes as soon as they see lightly dressed girls...)

This is a lot like the question of "am I my brother's keeper?" when it comes to how women dress vs. how men act. While I think the issues are closely related, I in no way whatsoever think that women, no matter how they're dressed, are responsible or to blame for whatever horrible deeds a man might commit. Men are beings possessing freedom of choice and a will to do whatever they decide, like women. Sadly, the choices that some women make when it comes to wearing provactive clothing tends to attract the more..."unsavory" members of the male sex. Does this mean it's the woman's fault if she gets attacked? Not at all. Or is this more like walking around and flaunting a wad of cash and not expecting to get robbed...?

Then again I haven't seen this particular movie but the princicple is the same I'd guess.

I would suggest that you see this film, particularly if you feel strongly about these sorts of issues. :-) And you might be please to know that the movie was very respectful of all the girls involved during the course of the story, represented them as innocent victims rather than "bringers of their own fate", and leaves the viewer with newly opened eyes to a very serious problem.

Okay, now that I've talked your ear off, lol! ;-) Sorry this got so long.

duva said...

"I cannot say what I think of such males on the internet. ;-D"

Hehe, that's a sign of a sound character in my book ;)

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Olde.fashioned said it all better. I guess I'm to gruff and since I see in black and white on such issues I don't explain myself well. ;-P

And Maedhros, lol, thanks. :-D

Spencer

duva said...

@ olde.fashioned

"Hi Duva! I hope you don't mind if I address a few points I noticed while reading your comment. :-) "

Of course I don't!

"Using the girls in this movie Taken as an example, if they had refused to share a cab with Peter the Frenchman (a perfect stranger, who they had only known for about a grand total of five seconds before they get into a car with him), and especially not telling him they were home alone (!!) in addition to giving him their address and apartment number, they would have been a lot safer and the whole situation would most likely have been avoided."

Indeed, but is this the kind of world we want to live in? A world where every stranger is a potetial criminal that has to be feared? I'll get more specific further down.

"And by your reasoning the only thing their "vigilance" would do is letting some other girls take their fall anyway.

I'm not sure that I understand this part. Do you mean that girls should be careless, hopefully putting themselves rather than others in dangerous situations so as to spare some other woman from getting attacked?"

Sure, self sacrifice is great but wasn't what I meant in this case. No, what I hinted to was merely that the reasoning of Spencer and you doesn't adress the real problem. Obviously a healthy dose of vigilance is good but we can all walk around being vigilant all our lives and still solve nothing. As long as those kinds of criminals are out there the problem will remain and innocents will be harmed. As a matter of fact being vigilant is modifying our own behaviour to fit the needs of a rotten society.

Am I making sense at all? :P The point I want to make is that I want to attack the mechanisms behind these kinds of crimes rather than going around being on my guard (which to me is like climbing up a tree to avoid a flood instead of trying to stem the tide).

"This is a lot like the question of "am I my brother's keeper?" when it comes to how women dress vs. how men act. While I think the issues are closely related, I in no way whatsoever think that women, no matter how they're dressed, are responsible or to blame for whatever horrible deeds a man might commit. Men are beings possessing freedom of choice and a will to do whatever they decide, like women. Sadly, the choices that some women make when it comes to wearing provactive clothing tends to attract the more..."unsavory" members of the male sex. Does this mean it's the woman's fault if she gets attacked? Not at all. Or is this more like walking around and flaunting a wad of cash and not expecting to get robbed...?"

I think you are countering your own reasoning here. You say that you don't believe it being the fault of the women while at the same likening wearing "provocative" clothing with flaunting a wad of cash. I'm not really sure what you are getting at here...

Andy Moore said...

Looks like a good movie, I'm fairly keen to see it. Good on you for adding the abortion counter mate! I've noticed a few people have had trouble fitting it in their sidebars, because it is too wide, so I've finally gotten round to making a 120px counter, which should do the trick.

God bless!

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Duva: I think we really agree on this issue but aren't understanding each other fully quite yet. Lol. :-D

The realist in me knows we will always have such crimes committed by such monsters, thus I believe in vigilance. On the other hand, I couldn't agree more with your comment on attacking the mechanisms behind the crimes. Offense is my style. :-D

Andy Moore: Welcome to my blog, good sir! How did you find me? Thanks for the new sidebar; it fits better, not perfectly, but that's my blog's fault. Are you the one who made these awesome sidebars?

God bless back!

Spencer

P.S. I don't know if you know, but I'm a fellow Hayley fan. :-P

olde.fashioned said...

Indeed, but is this the kind of world we want to live in? A world where every stranger is a potetial criminal that has to be feared? I'll get more specific further down.

Of course this isn't the type of world we want to live in, but there's no changing the fact that evil exists and it will wreck havoc in our lives if we let it. Wishing otherwise is a lot different from living like things actually are otherwise, which is very foolish and even downright dangerous IMO. In a perfect world, there would be no illness and disease, but does that mean we should spurn modern medical treatments simply because we wish we didn't need them?

No, what I hinted to was merely that the reasoning of Spencer and you doesn't adress the real problem. Obviously a healthy dose of vigilance is good but we can all walk around being vigilant all our lives and still solve nothing.

Well, I don't see what addressing the "real problem" has to do with women and vigilance. The presence of evil and sin in this world is the problem, but merely acknowledging it doesn't make it go away. Vigilance because of the problem and solving the problem itself are two different issues.

As long as those kinds of criminals are out there the problem will remain and innocents will be harmed.

Yes, that's precisely my point! (and Spencer's, I would imagine.) Those types of people do, have, and will always exist.

As a matter of fact being vigilant is modifying our own behaviour to fit the needs of a rotten society.


You're darn right it is, and that's the point. If we want to be safe from these monsters, we either have to eliminate them (which, let's face it, is impractical -- they're too numerous) or adapt to our surroundings in order to preserve ourselves, in this case, become more watchful and cautious.

Am I making sense at all? :P The point I want to make is that I want to attack the mechanisms behind these kinds of crimes rather than going around being on my guard (which to me is like climbing up a tree to avoid a flood instead of trying to stem the tide).


I'm trying to understand, really I am, so forgive me if I seemingly miss the point! ;-) I hope I'm making sense, as well.

Please allow me to borrow your analogy of climbing up a tree to escape a flood. In an ideal world, there would be no floods, so escaping from them shouldn't be something a person in Utopia would have to worry about. However, we don't live in a perfect world. If and when a flood comes, should a person stand and proclaim, "We don't need to climb a tree because we shouldn't have to, in a perfect world!" rather than hastily scurrying up that tree in order to save their own life? You can complain that the dam broke and let in all that water, but wanting to fix it (and even intending on fixing it in the future) isn't going to make all that water go away in the meantime.

I think you are countering your own reasoning here. You say that you don't believe it being the fault of the women while at the same likening wearing "provocative" clothing with flaunting a wad of cash. I'm not really sure what you are getting at here...

Hmm, okay, I guess I'm not explaining it right. Allow me another attempt at illustrating my point. ;-)

Let's pretend there are two smokers in a room. Both of them are, but one is trying to quit, and hasn't smoked in several days. If the smoker who is not trying to quit lights up in front of the quitter, and consequently causes the quitter to "fall of the wagon" so to speak, and start up smoking again, whose fault is it that the quitter started smoking again? The smoker, for being careless/selfish/negligent and smoking in the presence of the other, or the quitter for not exercising self control?

I hope that clarifies things a bit, instead of confusing you more, lol...

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Perhaps I can comment again here my friend. To help explain things, I think we could say that we both have different worldviews. The Christian worldview is that the world and everything in it was once perfect but is now fallen due to the effects of sin. We live in a fallen world! Sin, death, suffering, injuries, devastation, crimes like rape and murder, and all sorts of other horrible things have been introduced because of what we call the curse.

It's a very, very sad fact but it is just that; a fact. Others, including yourself, may not agree to our exact views of the "fallen" world but I'm sure anyone will agree that it simply isn't perfect; in fact, it's much worse than that.

So, the world being filled with all of this is a given for people like me. We cannot escape it, so we have to learn to live with it. Concerning the issue of personal security and crime: the "orcs" (as my buddy gravelbelly would say) are out there and they aren't going away. If I wish to survive in this world, and more importantly if I want to do my duty and protect the survival of others, I will be prepared.

Make sense now?

Spencer

P.S. You haven't by any chance seen my latest Warrior vigs, have you?

duva said...

I think Spencer hit the head on the nail. It's a matter of differing world views here. As opposed to you two I don't believe in evil and depravity for the sake of evil and depravity. What's rotten in this world is to me a matter of sick and bad things in our systems and societies. And despite being quite tired and pessimistic when looking out at the current world, deep down I do believe all this can be changed even by us humans. Dum spiro spero ;)

And this I am not going to argue about since I do understand and even partly embrace Christianity, so I do respect your view even though not quite agreeing.

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

I think Spencer hit the head on the nail.

Haha, I thought that might help. :-D

Andy Moore said...

this is how I found you ;)

Mmmm, no, it doesn't look like you've got the new counter yet. See, this one would fit...

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Ah, thank you again Andy!

Andy Moore said...

heh, as for a new username, what about "Palio"? Palio is the name of a fierce and furious horse-race in... Italy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palio_di_Siena

Just a random thought.