Taken (2009)

Rated PG-13. Our ratings: V- 7; L- 5; S/N-1. Running time: 1 hour 33 min.

The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
His eyes behold, his gaze examines humankind.
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked,
and his soul hates the lover of violence.
On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and sulphur;
a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.
Psalm11:4-7

Bryan searches for signs of his kidnapped daughter.

2009 20th Century Fox

It serves as a comment on our society that this film, crammed with scenes of violence committed by an angry father in search of his “taken” daughter, is rated PG-13 rather than R, another example of how we are far more leery of exposing our youth to sex than to violence (this film would definitely by an R if it contained an equivalent amount of sexuality.). That rating difference will earn the filmmakers a lot more money because viewers under 17 will be able to get into the theater without an adult. This adrenalin pumping thriller will no doubt be popular, especially with an accomplished actor like Liam Neeson as the star. However, for the thoughtful viewer (and believe me, thinking much about this film will almost destroy its believability), there is an unbridgeable chasm between Taken and Schindler’s List, the first affirming violence, and the latter exposing it (at least when committed by “the upright” ) for the evil that it is.

The film’s makers include French director Pierre Morel (District B13)and his fellow countryman producer-screenwriter Luc Besson ,who are joined by American co-writer Robert Mark Kamen. Adding to the international flavor is Irish actor Liam Neeson Bryan, a former CIA agent whose secrecy-shrouded world travels had contributed to his divorce from his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). Now retired, he wants to make up for his neglect of their now 17-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). However, as he brings to her birthday party a karaoke set, which would made a better gift for her a few years earlier, he finds that wealthy stepfather Stuart (Xander Berkeley) easily outclasses him—his gift is what looks like a thoroughbred horse.

There is one area, however, in which the wealthy man is no match, that of tracking down and killing people. Against Bryan’s will Kim sets forth on a trip to Paris with just her best friend, she seeing only adventure, and he only danger. As soon as the two girls acquire their luggage at the airport they are spotted by a polite young man who offers to share the expense of a taxi. He insists that they be dropped off first, thus obtaining their address. He calls his cohorts, who send a squad of thugs to kidnap the girls. Kim, talking on her cell phone with her father, is in a different room of the spacious quarters when she sees through a window her friend being. She follows his order to crawl under the bed and to leave the cell phone on. When she is found and dragged forth, Bryan addresses the leader, informing him that he has “a very particular set of skills acquired over a very long career in the shadows, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. . . . I will look for you, I will find you. And I will kill you.” “Good luck,” is the reply as the kidnapper smashes the phone.

Bryan springs into action, interrogating Stuart to see if he has any enemies who might have kidnapped Kim, and calling on former associates to analyze the voices recorded on Kim’s phone. Soon he is in Paris examining the apartment and piecing together the facts. He learns that voice analysis traces the kidnapers to a specific village in Albania, that the abductors are white slavers who will sell the girls to the highest bidder, and that he has at the most 96 hours to track them down before the girls are lost forever. Calling on the help of a former associate in the French police, Bryan soon finds the young man who had spotted the girls, but loses him during a chase when the lad is hit by a truck. This is but the first of a pile of bodies left by the vengeful father in his frantic search, a pile that could easily fill up that truck.

Bryan makes quite a vigilante, speeding about Paris in exciting chases, and dispatching villains, some of whom are wealthy businessmen out for the profits, one even a wealthy sheik (yes, there is that ever-green stereotype!), all indulging their sexual appetites, with no hint of remorse. Nor is any expected from the audience by such films as this. After all, this is Good vs. Evil in its rawest form, a loving father protecting his innocent daughter.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. To what emotions does the film appeal? Do you think that this healthy?

2. What other films are similar to this? (Such as the “Death Wish” and “Dirty Harry” series.) Note how vigilantism is questioned in the last of the Batman films.

3. How can the Psalm above be used to justify such Bryan. From what we are shown, can we really condemn him? And yet—?

4. Do a word search for “vengeance” in the Scriptures and discuss (or reflect upon) the results.

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