I just saw Taken with Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, and Famke Janssen. In the movie, Liam Neeson’s character is a retired CIA specialist with a particular “set of skills” who is trying to make up for lost time with his daughter over the years. During a trip to Europe, the daughter is abducted by a trafficking group in Paris. Neeson’s character, utilizing his skill set, spends the movie pursuing his daughter’s captors.
That synopsis was the gist of what I had gathered from the previews on tv before I went to see the movie. I was a little surprised, however, to find that the movie was exactly that. There were no real plot twists to speak of, and not a lot of character development at the beginning. The only developing of characters was spent reinforcing what you would probably have said about the characters anyway. in other words, the characters, for the sake of the movie, only really had their one dimension. This was obvious early on, and I was nervous the movie was going to disappoint. Neeson is a father driven by fatherly love, pure as the driven snow and relentless as a hurricane. Janssen is the mother (and divorced wife with custody of the daughter), liberally encouraging their daughter to experience the world. Grace, the daughter, is the cliche 17-year-old blown by the winds of influence, but revealing glimpses of moral scruples and common sense (that she obviously gets from her father).
The daughter, during an unsupervised trip to Europe with a careless libertine friend, is abducted by an organized crime ring that traffics young girls for prostitution. Abducted while on the phone with her paranoid, if prophetic, father, she disappears into an underworld of human trafficking thriving in Paris. Neeson’s character immediately begins his hunt, calling on all his connections and skills of old, driving him deep into an otherwise unpenetrable network of albanian thugs, crooked French police, and rich businessmen. Neeson tracks down his daughter, leaving a trail of slaughtered scum, until he fires a final liberating bullet, freeing his daughter and returning her safely home. The shear unlikelihood and idealism of the entire plot would be enough to make a cynic smugly dismiss the movie. I’m not a complete cynic, though. And I don’t think the masses are either. Not yet.
You know what really struck me about this movie? The fact that it moved me. Sure the plot was straightforward and so were the characters. And sure it was fantastic and unlikely. A lot of movies are. But this one told a story with a purpose. The plot was fantastic, but it was set within a terrifying, horrible reality. What moved me was the way that, within a dark context of real, unremitting evil, this story cut through with a purity of purpose that awakened an oft-dormant flame in my own heart for justice and love. I think that was the point of the movie.
So many movies with “points” are conceived and executed by cynics. We either get those or movies with no discernible point other than revenue. Taken is a movie that reminds us of a gross and damnable evil with shocking clarity, and a movie that tells a story highlighting the sense of justice in its hero, in order to arouse that same sense of justice in its viewers. In a world that downplays evil and encourages cynicism, an all-star cast has made a brave movie with a story about justice (in a purer sense than the justice parodies you get in the billions of legal shows). The movie left me thinking less about the number of “thumbs up” I wanted to give it, and more about setting a world right that has gone so wrong.