Taken 2 (2012)

Posted on December 10, 2014

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First, I apologize. I haven’t been working in advance on these posts, so when I got sick, I had no back-up. The cold really knocked me out for about a week and a half. I’m usually much quicker to recover, but this really hurt me. My wife is still recovering. Not asking for sympathy. Just apologizing.

I thought I reviewed Taken (2008), but I can’t find it, so let me give a quick prelude to my review of the sequel.

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is divorced. His daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) wants to go to Paris with her friends. He has misgivings, but finally gives in. She gets kidnapped. Bryan reveals that he has “certain skills” gained over a lifetime of special operations/intelligence work. He goes after the kidnappers to rescue his daughter.

Taken is racist. White people are good, especially white French people. Dark-skinned people are bad. Luc Besson justifies the French problem with immigration, rather than examining it or criticizing it. Yes, you can watch it and watch a good thriller. Thinking back on it, though, it’s hard to forgive.

What made it suspenseful was that we had no idea what Bryan could do, or how far he would go to save his daughter. Once that was established, how could they make a sequel?

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Short Version

I’m actually glad they did.

Long Version

In Taken 2, Bryan meets his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and his daughter Kim in Istanbul. It’s a surprise reunion, and a chance to hang out together in a beautiful, exotic, location.

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Meanwhile, Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija) is burying his sons, the human trafficker villains from the first movie. He wants revenge, which puts him on an intercept course with the Mills family.

I predicted that Taken 2 would be boring because once we knew Bryan’s skill set from the first film. There were no more surprises for us.

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I was wrong.

The film makers do an obvious thing, by making Bryan the victim and Kim the rescuer, for at least part of the movie. Kim has grown since the first film, and she’s gotten fiercer and stronger. I mentioned in my review of Lockout that Maggie Grace plays strong women well, and this is another example of it. Seriously: Get this woman a heroic starring role!

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Making Bryan the victim is obvious, but the film makers do some subtle things, too.

Remember that there are several ways to increase excitement in your story: Take away resources from your protagonist, increase the damage threatened by the villain, or make the threat more visceral, intimate, or (the dreaded cliché) more personal.

In Taken 2, the film makers put constraints on Bryan Mills by forcing him to actively work to protect his loved ones, in real time. He’s not trying to catch up with the bad guys. He’s right there in the midst of it. It forces him to divide his concentration, which is one of his resources.

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They also give him three targets for rescue: Himself, Kim, and Lenore. On several occasions, that forces Bryan to make hard choices over who to save. We didn’t see that in the first film, and it heightens the experience in the second one. Yes, this makes it more personal, but it’s also intimate and visceral.

Third, the film makers don’t sit on their laurels. Instead, there are constant threats of betrayal, capture, escape, and death. The threats move back and forth. The film makers establish early that all of the Mills are at risk. Anything can happen. Anyone could be captured, escape, and be captured again!

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Suddenly the earth shifts under Bryan’s feet, and thus under the audience’s. It’s a whole new ballgame. The movie becomes suspenseful again.

It’s still racist. Murad never full develops as a character. We have no idea what forced him into human trafficking. We don’t know why his family is so important that he’s willing to start a small war to get revenge. There’s just nothing. Luc Besson paints him as bad because he’s not white, and he’s Islamic. That’s it, and it’s sad.

Conclusion

Mind you, the box office doesn’t care. That’s why there will be a Taken 3 next year.

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Posted in: Movies