I just finished Liam Neeson's Taken bare moments ago and felt compelled to come here and write something about it. If you have seen this film already, perhaps my thoughts will not differ much from yours, mayhap they will.
The film, if you are going hoping for a Bond or Bourne-esque spy thriller, delivers. There are massive sweeping killings of bad guys, and I lost count of the necks snapped (perhaps five?). But the real meat of the story touches on a dark and hateful thing--modern slave trade.
As far as development goes, the back story doesn't pussy-foot. Neeson is an ex-spy who has retired to be closer to his daughter who's growing up years he's missed. A bare fifteen minutes in she is kidnapped, and it is on--he starts snapping radiuses and tracheas in effort to find her and get her back.
Of course he is aided by his old NSA/CIA buddies with a little voice ident (gathered from the phone call he recorded when his daughter was taken), but after that he is on his own. He raises a ruckus at the airport with the guy who took a picture of his daughter (compliments of his sleuth like ability to pick the kids reflection out of a window opposite in a picture) and the first head is bashed into a car. The kid who set his daughter up gets brutally run over by a semi after jumping off a bridge to escape from Neeson. The police get involved after the airport and he contacts an old friend/former spy who is now a desk jockey with the same police. Of course the fellow is glad to see him, but something is amiss. Their friendship is obviously strained, and we eventually circle back to this police friend who feels oily (his French cell phone conversations never get translated, so we are left wondering what the hell he is saying).
Neeson moves from one contact to another, leaving only the victims of this sickening slave trade alive--he whacks slaver bastards left and right, 7 in his second run in (one of which is decapitated by the scoop of a earth mover during a car chase), and something like 13 in the next-- each shot, stabbed, or in some other creative way relieved of his life--including the man who nabbed his daughter. Neeson's character tricks him into translating some text and identifies his voice from the recording he was listening to on the plane. Yes, this ex-spy is one bad ass.
The second place that he sweeps clean of dirt bag life yields that she is not there and he needs more information. He gets it from one of the poor shmucks he didn't quite kill--he plunges ten penny nails into the poor bastards thighs and hooks him up the electrical system of a room via a light switch. It is handy to switch on and off that way. Electrocuting him to death after getting the needed name. If he were to let the guy go after killing so many others it would be incongruent.
Queue the old police buddy (slaving is so phantom-like it begs the question of how much involvement is made by the various administrative bodies--whether active or simply paid to ignore it), and after some more creative motivation on the part of Neeson's character, he is able to match the address to the name the electrocuted man gave. It's a slave dealer for the high class, and his daughter is there. Neeson infiltrates, killing more slimy humans. I nearly cheered every time he kicked a knee in on one of those jerks. No mercy.
He gets caught after trying to make one of the buyers purchase his daughter. He's cuffed, and going to be strangled to death, but busts a pipe and kicks some more ass. Fantastic. The best part was the scene with the bigwig in the elevator--the guy is shot (quite deliberately) in both arms and one leg, and he tries to tell Neeson's character that it is nothing personal (that he has kids too). He even uses the old line from The Godfather. Neeson empties his entire gun into the guy. No mercy for slime.
His daughter is taken to a palatial barge on the Seine. He runs and follows the car, but cannot get to the boat before it departs. So he commandeers the same car he was chasing, an Audi A5 (he slams the guys head into the car, and for good measure once again viciously between the door and the jamb), and the final fight scene ensues. He drives desperately against traffic until he is ahead of the barge, then jumps out of the car and off the bridge onto the boat.
He is methodical and ruthless, slaughtering everyone except for one guy he throws overboard after bashing his head on the rail (to give him full credit, the guy could have been dead, Neeson's character makes Chuck Norris look the 69 year old wimp he truly is). He mows them down like daises growing up in too-long-neglected grass. It is a bloodbath, and only the last guy, a smug rat faced guy, cuts him up a bit before he too eventually gets sent into the next world.
Finally, the penultimate moment of the film. He is face to face with a fat oil sheik from an unknown middle-eastern country. Neeson's character has a bead on the oil baron and he waits. Neeson has scythed through nearly fifty men to get here, he is exhausted and worn out, but he remains still. His daughter is fully aware of her surroundings (as the drugs are worn off now), and terrified. Neeson's character is bleeding, broken, and has shed more blood in the last 96 hours than perhaps in his entire career as a spy. She at knife point, the tension is in the sheiks arm, the gun in pointed and waiting in Neeson's hand--the moment is so drawn out, so sharp in it's stillness, as he waits on. The sheik opens his mouth to talk negotiations and he fires. The root of the slave trade falls down, dead. The snake's head has been cut off, every baricade between he and his daughter destroyed, and the danger is gone. He and his daughter embrace.
It ends, not with retribution against Neeson's character, but with life moving on. There is no post traumatic stress disorder, no fetal position, no banging of her head against a solid object until she becomes unconscious. The daughter suffers from no massive crippling emotional scars (which we can see)--she resumes her life. Dad saves her, he takes her to voice lessons, the rich step dad offers to help in any way he can. It is all tidy and neat. Perhaps the directors felt that a huddling incoherent 17 year old girl who could not cope would end too negatively for audiences. In that regard I feel the story misses a bit, and only because it could have truly made a statement about this gross iniquity which has currently stolen the lives of 27 million humans (courtesy UN)
Instead this is a metaphorical journey--one that reaches out to our collective psyche in the form of our wishes. If we could take care of slave trafficking in this way we would, and nothing past sending these slime balls to their judgement in the next world would be necessary. Slavery is evil. I suggest I do not need to preach that one bit, as most of not all lucid rational people will agree with me on this. For an hour and thirty three minutes I got to indulge and make believe that the modern day slavers got some payback.
If we are to fight back in reality, we must call for greater punishments of slavers who are convicted. Something like hangings, firing squads, imprisonment without food, or jail time with polar bears. Yes I am being facetious. But I do believe increased penalties and greater cooperation between government organizations (with some sort of oversight) make up the area where we can improve. For the general public the greatest barricade to solving these problems is apathy--if it isn't close to home, why do we bother? If it isn't our daughter who was kidnapped, how does it affect us? Instead we must remember the 27 million who suffer, and we must find a way to stop this nefarious thing--the selling of humans, the exploiting of life.
And for that thought alone the movie is worth watching.
You can thank me later. Now go watch the good guys kick some butt.