“I will find you, and I will kill you”. It’s a line that everyone, including those who have never seen Taken, can always draw to mind. Despite its simple, overt message, it’s loaded with genuine threat and spine-tingling terror, pushed forward by Neeson’s inimitable performance. It’s made its way to just about every corner of popular culture imaginable, from Family Guy to Saturday Night Live, but Taken is much more than a one quote wonder.
Despite being a French-made film released in February 2008, the film took on a life of its own in the US upon its January 2009 release. It isn’t a genius work of visual art by any stretch, but its undeniably a fun, enduring piece of action. Seeing Neeson running around looking like Qui Gon Jinn had a kid with James Bond never gets old, while his efficient, John Wick-like slaughter provides enough mindless violence to keep anyone entertained.
The film even made its impact on real-life in 2011, when a counter-terrorism expert claimed the plot of the film stole directly from the story of his daughter’s death. Despite these claims (and the claim that he spent 12 years lecturing on security), it turned out to be a well-worked out fraud. He wasn’t an expert in counter-terrorism, and none of what he claimed had even happened to him. It resulted in a big community service sentence and repayment of the money he made through those lectures, as well as a big dose of reality when he found out random lies don’t always work.
It might have spawned two sequels, but they just couldn’t match the entertainment value of the original; there are only so many times people in the same circle can be taken, after all. In the second, Neeson himself is the one who ends up getting taken, and it’s a passable attempt at matching the first. The third juggles a few half-baked plots and ended up with universally scathing reviews that somewhat ruined the legacy of the original.
Still, the original Taken remains a great watch. Don’t expect poetic scripts, artistic direction or kaleidoscopic colours, but if you’re looking for lose-yourself action, then it’s about as classic as a film can get.