Taken

Taken

***1/2

Reviewed by: Val Kermode

“Helicopter parents” have been much in the news lately. These are the ones who accompany their adult offspring to university interviews, sometimes try to muscle in on their job interviews and wouldn’t dream of letting them go away on a gap year without the prepaid mobile and the full “phone home every day” instruction kit. This film will confirm their worst fears.

Bryan (Liam Neeson) appears to be just such a parent. He is the father of Kim (Maggie Grace), who now lives with her mother (“Don’t call me Lenny”) Lenore (Famke Jansson) and wealthy stepfather (Xander Berkeley). But as he is an ex government spy he has more reason than most to be worried when his 17 year old announces that she’s off to Paris with her 19 year old friend. Bryan tries to warn her of the dangers, then reluctantly gives his consent, thinking that she is going to stay with cousins, who turn out to have gone to Spain. With strict instructions to phone him on arrival, she sets off on her trip.

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When they arrive in Paris the girls are befriended at the airport by a pleasant young man who takes their photo and suggests sharing a taxi into the city. They let him know they will be staying alone in their apartment, and when he leaves them there we see him ringing immediately to pass on this information.

Meanwhile Bryan is getting desperate because his daughter hasn’t rung him as promised. He calls her mother, who quite reasonably tells him to stop worrying and give the girl some space. Kim eventually realises she needs to make that call. Then, while she is speaking to her father, from the bathroom, she sees several men enter the flat and kidnap her friend. Horrified, she tells her father what is going on. He tells her to hide under a bed, keep her phone on and give him any details she can about the kidnappers, knowing that she will certainly be taken. He hears the men speaking in Albanian and when one of them picks up the phone he delivers a message, promising to track them down.

Bryan then does what any parent would do and sets off to Paris to find his daughter, but with his background and skills we know he has a better chance than most. Learning that these Albanians are into sex trafficking, he is told that he probably has ninety-six hours to “never finding her”.

This being a thriller and not a documentary, we know all along that this precious virgin daughter isn’t going to get very drugged or even seriously assaulted and that there’s almost certainly going to be a happy Hollywood ending. Nevertheless, the context of trafficking gives this story a serious edge. One particularly depressing scene on a construction site with men queueing outside a portacabin where rows of drugged girls lie behind curtains reminds us that this isn’t so far from the truth.

The early scenes are well handled and powerful. Liam Neeson has the right battered look and acts well in the part, as a combination of loving father and trained killer. Famke Jansson is also good as the mother, initially scathing, then desperate for her ex-husband’s help.

There’s a lot of killing and the inevitable torture, even some black rendition humour. Neeson says “We used to hire out this sort of thing to other countries, but the electricity supply could be so unreliable…” But it all zips along so fast that you don’t really have time to question the morality of it and, hey, we’ve got daughters too. It does become less plausible as it goes along, and it’s a pity about the cliched Arab scenario towards the end. Pity about the Albanians really, but I guess someone has to be baddie of the year.

As a thriller, it grips. You can pick up your liberal principles on the way out.

Reviewed on: 17 Sep 2008
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A former spy gets back into action after his daughter is kidnapped by sex traffickers.
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Read more Taken reviews:

Stephen Carty *1/2

Director: Pierre Morel

Writer: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen

Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Xander Berkeley, Katie Cassidy, Olivier Rabourdin, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky, Holly Valance

Year: 2008

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France

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