Sunday, August 18, 2013

"Taken" (2008)

My Mom says that Taken is about a parent's worst nightmare.  I say it's about a stupid parent's worst nightmare, because what intelligent parent would let their seventeen-year-old daughter go to Paris with an eighteen-year-old friend?  Not a single chaperone in sight, just the promise of them staying with the friend's cousins.  That's just asking for trouble.

Also, they stole their tagline from the Harrison Ford movie Frantic (1988), which had "They've taken his wife.  Now he's taking action."  Which was also set in Paris, IIRC.  Hmm.

Okay, so yeah, the plot of this is that ex-CIA agent Bryan (Liam Neeson) has an ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and a pretty daughter named Kim (Maggie Grace).  Kim goes to Paris, gets taken by bad guys, and Bryan goes to rescue her.  Lots of violence ensues.

The most interesting part of the movie, for me, is how well the writers utilized the classic "quest myth" structure.  (This is totally spoily, just so you know.  Skip this paragraph if you want to avoid the spoilage.)  We first see our hero in his home environment so we see what he has to lose and/or gain.  Then he gets the call to action, which in this case is a literal phone call from his about-to-be-kidnapped daughter.  He calls on a magical helper, a fellow agent, to help him out before he sets off.  He flies to Paris, entering a mystical woods of unknown surroundings.  A frenemy there serves as the threshold guardian, warning him to turn back and go home.  Bryan ignores him and heroically goes after his prize/daughter, overcoming all obstacles the villains throw at him.  He enters the lion's den and gets captured, and almost has a symbolic death and rebirth, though not quite.  He confronts the villain there, but learns of another villain, so has to enter another lion's den and confront the other villain.  And then he gains his prize/daughter.  We end with him returning the prize to his usual world, where he is welcomed and praised for his efforts and successes.  About the only things he doesn't have that could get crammed into this are a sidekick and a mentor.  He even meets up with a lot of the female archetypes, such as woman-as-whore and woman-as-mother and woman-as-virgin.

Pretty classic stuff for an otherwise kind of forgettable action flick.

It was neat to see Maggie Grace in something other than Lost, and Famke Janssen's character was kind of like a less-loving version of the mom she played in Don't Say a Word (2001), which also involved a kidnapped daughter.  Hmm.


If you want to know more about all this "quest myth" mumbo jumbo I'm rambling about, I suggest reading The Key:  How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth by James N. Frey or The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.  They will expand your mind.  In a good way.  The former is technically a how-to-write book for writers, but it can be fascinating to non-writers too.  The latter is really long and I haven't managed to finish it yet, though I need to.

Is this movie family friendly?  No.

12 comments:

  1. Overall I enjoyed the movie as a clichéd dumb action movie, but it is not all that great of a movie. Liam Neeson kicking butt was a lot of fun to watch though and his "I will find you and I will kill you" quote was memorable.

    -James

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    1. Yes, it's a good movie for when you don't want to engage your brain in anything more strenuous than remembering what the good guys look like. Fun, but forgettable.

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  2. I was scared out of watching this movie, and I still don't want to watch it...haha. There are other action movies that would be much more fun for me.

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    1. It's completely skippable. Don't watch it if you don't want to!

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  3. Taken would be completely stupid/forgettable if it wasn't for Liam Neeson. I think I enjoy watching him beat people up TOO MUCH. haha

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    1. I'm guessing that if a person saw this when it first came out, when Neeson hadn't sort of degenerated into a second-tier action star and was still known for meaty drama, then it would be this amazing shock to see him pounding the snot out of bad guys. As it is, it's fun, but not enough for me to dig the movie.

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  4. As someone who is actually from Europe, I was deeply offended and upset by this movie's truly xenophobic subtext. I still can't believe that an Irish actor actually agreed to star in it. The theme of the whole movie is basically "Why would anyone want to leave America?! Don't they know how dangerous Europe is!" Yes, that's exactly right because Europe is such a terrifying place to be *rolls eyes*

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    1. Huh -- I guess I didn't latch onto that subtext at all. My take was that it's very stupid to let young people go galivanting off to an unfamiliar city where they will be very far away from anyone who could help them. Especially if they don't speak the language. I think this would work just as well if the girls were, say, Londoners in Moscow. Or Russian girls who went to LA. Or even American girls going to Chicago or NYC alone. Even if they didn't get kidnapped and sold into white slavery, they still could get robbed, shot, beaten up, raped, whatever. It was honestly one of the stupidest things I can imagine any parent letting their kid do.

      Not saying the subtext isn't there, just saying... I hate big cities, they scare me.

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    2. Well, I'm not a parent myself but I have done some backpacking. Two years ago I spent a month travelling around Western Europe. I was 23 at the time and I went by myself. I would have preferred to have gone with a friend but everyone I knew either couldn't go or didn't have the money. I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass by me! Of course my parents were still anxious but backpacking is very common in Britain. Thousands of people go off to countries like Thailand or Australia every year and have no problems whatsoever. And that month was the happiest of my life. Most Europeans under 30 know enough English to communicate and at no point did I feel in any kind of danger. I read up on where I was going, I kept my parents informed about what I was doing, I kept to touristy areas, I didn't stay out too late at night, I never allowed myself to drink alcohol with strangers, I didn't walk down dark alleys. Basically I was responsible, I used my common sense and I didn't do anything that I wouldn't do at home. Of course there will still be some risks wherever you go but then there will always be risks at home too if you think about it.

      I hope the above doesn't sound preachy. It's just that travel is something that I'm very passionate about and the idea that some people are too afraid to go off and see the world saddens me.

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    3. See, but you were 23, not a teenager. You were prepared, obviously cautious and responsible, and stayed away from dangerous situations.

      I love to travel too -- one day, I would love to see more of Europe, but so far I've only been to Ukraine and a teeny slice of Poland. However, once our kids are older, we are hoping to be able to do short tours of duty in other countries (my husband works for the government, but not the military) and be able to experience other parts of the world.

      When one of my husband's sisters graduated from high school, she and her best friend went to Paris. With her best friend's grandmother. They went to a few other places too, but I was thinking a lot about her when I watched this movie, and going, "Wow, this is not something that would have happened to her because... she's not stupid."

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  5. That is true. I doubt my parents would have let me go if I'd been as young as the girls in this movie. But I still think this movie has a xenophobic subtext. The dad lectures his daughter about the dangers of going to Europe and - wouldn't you know it! - the very first people she meets in Paris are Albanian sex traffickers! I mean, come on!

    That's really cool that you've been to Ukraine and Poland. And your future travel plans sound very exciting : ) I'd love to go to America myself at some point. My best friend went to Alaska and she bought me socks from there. I'm wearing them right now! : D And I've got another friend, a guy, who went to Texas for a few weeks. He said that he's never had as much female attention in his life as he did in those weeks. The girls LOVED his accent. Maybe if I haven't found myself a husband within the next few years I should get myself over there... : D

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    1. I'll take your word for it ;-) I remember him lecturing her, but to me it sounded more like, "You'll be in a foreign country in a big city," not "All of Europe is full of evil." But I only saw it once, over a month ago, so I don't remember it clearly.

      I would LOVE to go to Alaska! It's one of my ambitions. And the men-to-women ratio is still pretty favorable to unmarried women.

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