Taken (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language.
Length: 93 minutes
Grade: ADBB=A-
Budget: $25 million
Box Office: $270 million (145 U.S., 75 Intl., 50 DVD)

Written by: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen (Transporter(s), Revolver, The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita)
Directed by: Pierre Morel (His first directing effort)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, and Famke Jansen

When the daughter of a retired CIA operative is kidnapped in Paris, he uses his field skills to rescue her from a violent human-trafficking organization.

Entertainment Value: A
As an action flick, this is outstanding. Beyond outstanding. It’s clean (in structure), just complex enough not to be predictable, properly paced, and generally brilliant. As with any action movie, there are some implausible elements, but the key to a good action movie is minimizing them rather than eliminating all of them. As such, this is a top-of-the-genre effort, which is impressive for a first timer like Pierre Morel, although his familiarity with camera work certainly shows here.

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol C-, Sex/Nudity C, Violence D, Language C, Illegality D
Women are shown strung out on drugs, women are shown in forced prostitution and being sold into slavery, lots of people die and in sometimes brutal ways, and the language is definitely PG-13. Also, the movie is all about a vigilante father who breaks laws fighting against lawbreakers.

Significant Content: B
Crime is awful, far more awful than you know. Government corruption is always a factor in the ongoing existence of crime. Extreme situations require extreme responses. A father’s love knows no limits. There are lots of evil men in the world and a handful of virtuous ones. Overprotective fathers aren’t always paranoid. Sometimes they just know how the world works. A real man protects his family.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
I know very few people would think to compare this movie with Slumdog Millionaire, but allow me a moment to do so. What was so fascinating about Slumdog is the way it crafted a brilliant movie plot which allowed the makers to expose us to the worst realities of life in the slums of India. Similarly, what Taken has done is craft a brilliant action movie which allows the makers to show us the worst realities of human trafficking and gang activity.

Discussion Questions:
~In one unforgettable scene, workers stand in line to pay for access to drugged women in a brothel. Who do you blame more for the evils done to these women: the men who kidnap and pimp them out or the men who pay to use them? If there were no customers, would there be any kidnappings? To what degree do you blame the government officials for not only allowing this to go on but actually profiting from it themselves? Do you believe that crime always exists because police or governments allow it to?
~Toward the end of the movie, one man begs for his life and tries to excuse his behavior by saying that it wasn’t personal, it was just business. Is this idea ever used to justify morally excellent behavior? This idea is a common expression even in American business, as expressed by people like Donald Trump on his show, The Apprentice. Does it ever justify behavior to say that “it’s not personal, just business?”
~Does this movie make you more or less willing to travel overseas? To let your children do so? Are such movies useful warnings or fear-mongering extremes? Consider that our society is currently very overprotective compared to previous ones? Is it the responsibility of art to nudge a culture back toward the truth, or does art have any particular obligations in this sense? Can you make a thrilling movie about a child who simply travels around Europe with nothing happening?
~There are three very different images of manhood in this movie: the wealthy but useless rich dad, the poor but loving and capable hero, and the scumbag villains. Which image of masculinity endures in your mind when it’s all over?
~Do you think that women experience this movie differently than men do?
~What things does this movie use to tell us in the character development phase that Bryan is thorough and meticulous? Why does it go to such pains to do so?
~What do you think of Bryan’s methods? He breaks laws, destroys property, puts many lives at risk, and kills many people. Could he be a Christian? Can a Christian celebrate his actions? Would a mature Christian enjoy this movie? Would your answer be any different if he had happened to harm a number of innocent bystanders in the process of his vigilantism? What about the simple fact that he put them at risk? What about the minister’s family?
~In what senses is Bryan like Jesus and in what senses different from Jesus?
~In some ways this movie is a throwback to an earlier philosophy of movie-making, where the hero is good and the bad guys are bad, and the only moral issue (of just use of force) is dismissed without comment. Compare this to the new line of Bond films, for instance, where the lead figure is morally conflicted and full of flaws. Which sort of action film is healthier for a society to consume? Which ones are more Biblical?
~Bryan offers the kidnappers a deal that he will let them go free if they merely return his daughter. Given all the other women who will still be harmed, would you consider this offer to be noble? Do you consider him less noble for only being willing to do what he does in this movie as a consequence of his own daughter being kidnapped? Should we as Christians be more willing to accept evil in the world simply because it doesn’t affect us personally? Can you think of some problems that you would not tolerate affecting your family but that you do tolerate because the don’t? Can you think of any ways that you might have an impact on any of them? How much are we obligated to sacrifice in pursuit of stopping evil in the world that doesn’t personally affect us? Was it an overblown concern with stopping evil that led Bryan to lose his marriage and have such a poor relationship with his daughter in the first place?
Overall Grade: A-
Excellent action movie. One of the best I’ve seen recently.

1 comment:

Naum said...

everyone seems to like this movie, and we recently did a PPV on it, and I can't see what was so great about it…

the script was dreadful, the plot entirely predictable, liam neeson miscast, it was like a B movie…