In TAKEN, Liam Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, an ex-government operative who has less than four days to find his kidnapped daughter, who has been taken on her first day of vacation in Paris.
According to the film's co-screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, it was co-writer and producer Luc Besson who came up with the idea for TAKEN. "Luc had met with a Paris police officer who told him about this underworld of kidnappers who take young women," Kamen recalls. "The girls would then be auctioned off in these gorgeous mansions just outside of Paris."
Besson and Kamen turned this idea into a compelling story, with big set pieces, practical action, martial arts, and what Kamen calls "crazy/crazy" stunts - and very few computer generated effects. "It's the same mix we've used in films like 'The Transporter' and 'Kiss of the Dragon,'" he adds.
Their protagonist's history as a former government operative appealed to Kamen, who had read about the startling exploits of several real-life operatives when Kamen was doing graduate study work in Afghanistan. "I learned about guys doing covert operations - real 'cuckoo stuff' - in that part of the world. I was particularly impressed with their self-reliance and skills. They're not the kind of guys who call the police when they're in a jam. They look at problems as things to be solved, as opposed to getting someone else to solve them for them. They don't adhere to the conventions of society."
Kamen and Besson wrote Bryan Mills with many of these qualities in mind. Bryan doesn't seek help - not even from an inner circle of covert ops pals - when Kim is kidnapped. Bryan relies only on his own skills, and he makes good use of them all hunting down her kidnappers.
To direct TAKEN, Besson hired Pierre Morel, who had helmed the internationally acclaimed action film "District B13," which introduced the martial art parkour - a gorgeously choreographed, propulsive fighting style - to movie fans around the globe; Besson had produced and co-written the 2004 release. (Morel was also a noted cinematographer, who had shot "Unleashed," also written and produced by Besson.)
Morel's on-set demeanor impressed Kamen, who likens it to that of his lead character, Bryan Mills. "Pierre is really calm and cool," Kamen notes. "He comes in, knows what the job is, and knows what he has to do to make it happen."
Morel, though, says that along with that calm comes a responsibility to keep the energy high on the set. "Even though a lot hinges on the editing, the rhythm has to be there when you're shooting. If it's not, there's no second chance. I always ask the actors to keep up a high tempo and to be as realistic as possible. And personally, I'm really charged up in the way I shoot, so I think a lot of the movie's energy comes from that. If you take your time over things, when you start to edit, you have to trim it back down and so you lose the rhythm."
Liam Neeson, who has worked with renowned directors like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas and Ridley Scott, says he was impressed with the young filmmaker. "Pierre has had movies in his blood for a long time and is hugely experienced, especially as a director of photography. I particularly liked the originality of 'District B13,' which showed he had a director's eye and an incredible sense of rhythm and energy, which was vital on the set of TAKEN. I also liked the fact that Pierre operates the camera himself."
Neeson, a distinguished actor and multi-award nominee, is a fascinating and unconventional choice to portray an action hero. But at the same time, the gravity and complexity he brings to the role of Bryan Mills provides added depth to TAKEN, which constantly flirts with the codes of the genre. In a manner that's original for a thriller, Bryan is initially defined by his love for his daughter rather than his past as a secret agent. T
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