Taken 3 Review
Reviewed by Mark McCullough.
Taken 3 is the third film in the franchise which follows the lives of main character Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his family. Introduced in the first film, Taken, Mills is established as a tough as nails ex CIA man with a strong love of his family, as such he will do anything to keep them safe. This has been demonstrated through the narratives of the previous films in the franchise where each time a member of Mills’ family has been taken, forcing him out of his retirement in order to bring them home safely. Unfortunately the second instalment of the series was unable to capture the magic of the first as it felt too similar. Thankfully then for the third and final film of the series a creative decision was made to change the focus of the film.
The narrative this time out does not see anyone taken, a change which may disappoint some fans of the franchise. However instead we are offered a considerably more character driven narrative, a decision which pushes both the franchise and Mills out of their respective comfort zones as they are thrown into a brand new situation. The result is a breath of fresh air to the franchise which leads to a gripping story and some development for the characters involved. This afford those involved the opportunity in excel in their respective roles.
The first scene of the film introduces us to a completely new villain who is presented as sadistic and utterly ruthless. In fact we learn very little other than this meaning the character maintains an air of mystery which fits nicely into the genre of the film. The film’s title sequence hammers home the shift in style of the third film, as it pans across Los Angeles. This is significant as previous films have happened in Europe whilst the family was on holidays; to have it set at home for them would drive home the message of the danger faced in the supposed safety of a familiar environment.
The film opens proper by showing us Bryan and the state of his relationships with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), and Lenore’s current partner Stuart (Dougray Scott). There are tense scenes and some genuine heart-warming moments which help make the characters feel real and relatable. Having early investment in the characters allows us to receive a satisfactory pay-off as the film progresses. Another point of note is that the characters actions and mannerisms in the opening few scenes also prove to be important as the truth comes out.
The narrative receives an injection of pace as Mills arrives home following a text from Lenore to find her on his bed with her throat cut. With the evidence against him and the police on top of him, Mills has no choice but to flee. This leaves him with the uphill task of finding out who was responsible for Lenore’s death, whilst keeping Kim safe from the same people, and all of this while being subject of a manhunt from the police. Luckily Mills has a very particular set of skills which allow him to make progress in some respects.
The police storyline allows for the introduction of three new characters, who sadly do not receive the required attention to become memorable characters. This is more evident with the detectives whose names I can actually remember, however they serve little more purpose than to be obstacles for Mills to easily overcome. Inspector Dotzler (Forest Whittaker) however is dealt a slightly better hand by the script as he is afforded the opportunity to show is intelligence when pitted against Mills. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the character however is something that is easily missed and centres on the elastic band he wears around his wrist.
Taken 3 is an entertaining film which captures some of the magic of the first instalment. The deviation from the format of the first two films is something that works well but has also come under some scrutiny for removing the soul of the franchise. As a counter I would offer the suggestion that what is taken is not a person, but Mills’ freedom, so metaphorically speaking the essence of the film is still there. Either way I don’t feel it has a large impact on the enjoyment of the film which delivers an engaging story which is not too difficult to follow.
The main cast also offer exceptional performances in their roles bringing the characters to life. However the plot itself is too simple meaning that it becomes guessable reducing the impact of the twists. The supporting characters are not up to the standard you would expect, further weakening the film.
Finally whilst the action sequences are well done, at times they stretch the realms of possibility again having a negative impact on the narrative. That said, ultimately the film is 108 minutes of high octane entertainment, so for that reason I’m sure it will fare quite well.