The ‘Taken’ franchise of action dramas, starring a fit and towering Liam Neeson as an imposing ex-CIA / Black Ops hard-man, rivals Die Hard for its taut storylines and mind-blowing smash-’em-up action sequences. In all three movies the central characters are sympathetic, the scenarios reasonably convincing and the villains suitably terrifying. Above all, the story is utterly gripping. Even though this is the third picture in the franchise, there’s nothing tired or lazy about it. Its tagline ‘It Ends Here’ implies that this will be the final movie, but I wouldn’t bet on it… Box office success will determine if the studio is impelled to resurrect the franchise.
Right from the stunning opening credits sequence, where Los Angeles is filmed from above on a clear night, you know you are in good hands. Plus, despite already being a central character in so many movies — check out the marvelous documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself — Los Angeles has never looked more beautiful projected on the silver screen. The look of Taken 3 manages to be glossy, gritty and super-stylish throughout.
When our hero Bryan Mills, (Liam Neeson) is accused of his ex-wife’s murder, he has to elude police, keep his daughter from being captured and killed and bring down the ruthless Russian mobsters behind the frame-up. And so he does, with flair, cunning and aplomb.
Even if this kind of genre picture is not your usual cup of tea, rest assured that they don’t come better than this. Firstly, the franchise is solid, with Luc Besson co-writing with longtime screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen and producing all three pictures, plus Besson’s acolyte Olivier Megaton directing the last two. These are action thrillers of the highest caliber.
Furthermore, Taken 3 is a masterclass in moviemaking. There’s not one wasted moment, not one superfluous shot, not one schmaltzy digression (cough, cough witness the flabby and overlong Denzel Washington vehicle The Equalizer, which suffers by comparison) — this is storytelling at its most pure and economical. Everything drives the action forward relentlessly to its satisfying conclusion.
About the filmmaking team: Olivier Megaton is a French film director, writer and editor best known for directing The Red Siren, Transporter 3, Colombiana and Taken 2.
Luc Besson is known for directing and producing thrillers and action films that are visually rich, including Subway (1985), The Big Blue (1988) and Nikita (1990) also Léon: The Professional, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, The Fifth Element (1997) and so on.
Robert Mark Kamen is a frequent collaborator of French writer, director and producer Luc Besson—his co-creator on The Fifth Element, The Transporter, and Taken. The two first worked together on the Natalie Portman and Jean Reno thriller Léon: The Professional. After the success of Fifth Element, Besson invited Kamen to join him in his goal of creating a “mini-studio” in Europe, making “movies that would travel, international movies, you know, action movies.”
Even moments of predictability (an inevitable factor of formula within genre) are still satisfying. It’s just another way these filmmakers make sure you are invested in the story.
As a second sequel, Taken 3 surpasses expectations.
As a stand-alone action thriller, Taken 3 is a must-see.
Taken 3 is now playing in cinemas across Los Angeles.