What would a father do to save his daughter? What would a spy do to prevent a terrorist attack? While the second question doesn't come up in "Taken," it was the first thing I thought of watching retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) torture and kill the Albanian flesh merchant who had kidnapped his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Bryan even shoots a perfectly innocent woman in the arm to get the attention of her husband, a corrupt French police official who may have information about Kim. "It's a flesh wound," he says reassuringly as she writhes in agony on the dining room floor. I lost track of the number of people Bryan killed on the way to saving his daughter. It's movie magic and manipulation, I realize, but as a father, I was rooting for him all the way. I imagine a majority of members of the Supreme Court would have been as well. I'm glad movie audiences don't rule on the legality of torture and rendition.
Neeson's character has quit the CIA to be a more attentive father to 17-year-old Kim, who colludes with her mother Leonore (Famke Janssen) to trick him into permitting her to accompany a friend to Paris, where she and a friend secretly plan to follow U2 on their European tour. This is egregious; 17-year-olds don't much like U2, in my experience. The girls are kidnapped on their first afternoon. What is it with these movies about how dangerous Europe is for American teenagers? While I've never been able to watch it all the way through, "Hostel" promoted the same view. In the case of "Taken," the bad guys are Albanian and French. There's also an old-fashioned perverted Arab sheik, plus a Paris-based American flesh merchant who plays the role of protecting the filmmakers from the charge that they're picking on foreigners. Still, in "Taken," only America is safe. Highly capable CIA agents know how dangerous and corrupt the world really is. Everyone else, especially women, is clueless.