Classic Review: The “Taken” Trilogy (2008-2014)

Since I’ve started this site, I’ve written a lot of reviews. In case you missed some of my earlier ones, I would like to share an older review of the “Taken” trilogy which originally appeared here.

Taken (2008)

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), a former government operative, is trying to reconnect with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Then his worst fears become real when sex slavers abduct Kim and her friend shortly after they arrive in Paris for vacation. With just four days until Kim will be auctioned off, Bryan must call on every skill he learned in black ops to rescue her.

This film was a surprise for me when I saw this the first time. I know he was in Batman Begins and The Phantom Menace but this film was the first time I ever thought of Liam Neeson as a real action star. Its plot was new and fresh back then, some man’s daughter is kidnapped but unfortunately for them, the girl’s father is a former super spy. In this case Bryan Mills (Neeson), a former operative, has his worst fear come true when his daughter Kim (Grace) and her friend are kidnapped while in Paris on vacation. With time running out until she is sold, Bryan must utilize all of his skills in order to save her. What I liked about this film is that it went straight to the point as it did not waste time until Kim is kidnapped. It did however did a good job in taking the time to establish the relationship between Bryan and Kim helping understand Bryan’s motivation for wanting to save her in the first place. Bryan is a little overbearing but just wants what’s best for his daughter and this definitely came across here. Of course they don’t have a perfect family which leads to some awkward scenes with Bryan’s ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and her new husband Stuart (Xander Berkeley) and a predictable ending but that was fine. Another thing I liked about the film was its tone with its dark and gritty subject matter elevating the suspense and the intensity. This suspense and intensity came from Neeson’s performance as Mills and the music, sure it was cliche suspenseful music but it really got me in the mood. I have to say that the scene where Kim is kidnapped was very intense as it took you by surprise as you probably weren’t expecting it to happen when it did (this is what I felt when I saw this the first time but I am aware of the film’s title so I knew it was going to happen eventually) and the fact that Bryan was on the phone the whole time added to it. This also leads to one of the greatest speeches in film history (in my opinion) about his skills. I was definitely fun and compelling to watch Neeson show us how much of a badass he was in his investigation. It took us through the dark underworld surrounding Kim’s kidnappers and the world of female trafficking while also kicking some ass along the way. I thought the action scenes were well done and the fight choreography was good too but I do have the suspicion that the villains may have been deliberately holding back in order to make Neeson look better. Of course they are go to make the star of the film look good but it was very obvious this time around. This is just a very original movie which knows what it is, led by a great performance by Neeson which goes about its business without wasting too much time.

Score: 9/10


Taken 2 (2012)

Two years ago, retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) used his “particular set of skills” to rescue his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), from kidnappers. Since then, Kim has been learning self-defense from her father, and Bryan has been on a personal mission to reunite with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen). In Istanbul, Bryan and his family cross paths with Murad (Rade Serbedzija), whose son died at Bryan’s hand during Kim’s rescue. Murad wants revenge, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it.

I personally would have been okay if they ended the series after the first film but at least this give us another chance to watch Liam Neeson being a badass so at least we get that. The story for this one is kind of a carryover from the previous film as the father of one of the people Bryan (Neeson) killed while rescuing Kim in the previous film, Murad (Rade Serbedzija). Of course he wants revenge and he’ll do anything to get it. What makes this film different from the previous one is that we all know what’s going on and what will happen early on and we already have a villain established and a little insight as to his motivations. Being that this film is called “Taken 2”, most of you already have an idea as to what will happen and it does. This time Bryan’s family are more closer as Lenore (Janssen) and her husband Stuart are separated and they as well as their daughter Kim (Grace) go to meet Bryan, who is in Istanbul for work, for a vacation. One thing about that was that we never got to learn why Bryan was in Istanbul or what he was doing there but I didn’t mind as this as the film’s location does not affect the plot whatsoever. Again seeing that this is a “Taken” film, someone’s going to be taken and in this one, Bryan and Lenore get taken. A big difference with this film is that Kim, who doesn’t get taken, is the one who saves her parents with some help from her father. This brings me to something I didn’t like about the film, everything just seemed to easy for the main characters. The film’s villains were so inept to the point that they would leave Bryan and Lenore alone for long periods of time leaving Bryan with the opportunity to contact Kim in order to orchestrate his and Lenore’s escape. Despite this little shortcoming, the film was able to maintain the sense of suspense and intensity from the first film. I found the film to be just as compelling as Bryan was just as intense and badass while trying to escape captivity and while trying to stop the film’s villains to protect his family. Just like in the previous film, the action scenes were well done but the holding back just seemed a little more obvious here. This film just didn’t work as well for me because it just felt lazy to me. It just tried to be the same as the previous film and it just didn’t work as it didn’t come as much of a surprise.

Score: 6.5/10


Taken 3 (2014)

Ex-covert operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), are enjoying a reconciliation when Lenore is brutally murdered. Bryan is framed for the crime and flees, with the CIA, FBI and police all in hot pursuit. For the last time, he channels his rage and particular set of skills into hunting down Lenore’s real killers, taking his revenge and protecting the one important thing left in his life, his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace).

So this is the last one and also another to scratch off my list. Some of you may wonder why this film even exists. In the first film, Bryan’s (Neeson) daughter Kim (Grace) is taken. In the second film, Bryan and his wife Lenore (Janssen) get taken. What can they do this time as there appears to be noone left to take? In this film, Bryan and Lenore are in the middle of a reconciliation when Lenore is murdered. Bryan is framed for her murder and then flees while evading the CIA, the FBI, and the police in the process. He must use his skills in order to hunt down his wife’s real killer while also protecting his daughter Kim who is the only important thing he has left in his life. From that, the film is already different from the previous two films and that to me was a good thing as trying to redo a similar story would just be repetitive. One of the great things about this series is the relationship between Bryan and Kim and this film is no different with them still having great chemistry with one another. Also in the limited time they had here, I thought Bryan and Lenore had great chemistry as well. I wish we could have seen more of them because if they ever got back to together, it would make losing her even worse for Bryan. Unfortunately there is still a hurdle in the way of Bryan and Lenore getting back together as she and her husband Stuart are still trying to reconcile their marriage. It’s also unfortunate that they chose to recast the character of Stuart as Xander Berkeley played him in the first film and Dougray Scott plays him in this film (he did not appear in the second film). It took a little getting used to as they do not look alike. I realize this is done in order to give Neeson something to do but I wished it didn’t come from stupid cops who just overreact to everything. They just seemed to be more interested in chasing Bryan around despite little evidence instead of trying to find Lenore’s real killer. The main cop who was hunting Bryan, Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), is supposed to be the smart cop but appears to be ignorant of the fact that Bryan may be innocent. I still thought he was good but he still felt a little underutilized to me. So in essence, the film is pretty much him trying to evade the cops and devotes most of its time to that. Because of that we never really get a sense of who the villain is. When we do learn the truth, it was underwhelming and also predictable. Despite that, there’s still ample suspense and intensity to be had here. Neeson was still great here as he is still compelling to watch, kicking ass and just being intense. This film didn’t have to be made but it was still a decent time to be had despite the film’s haphazard direction.

Score: 7.5/10

Series (Average): 7.66/10

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