Whether it is his Academy Award nominated role of Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg's highly acclaimed "Schindler's List" (1993), his award-winning portrayal of legendary Irish Republican hero in "Michael Collins" (1996), or his role as controversial sex therapist Alfred Kinsey in the critically acclaimed "Kinsey" (2004), Liam Neeson continues to display an acting range matched by few. In his new movie 'Taken,' Liam plays an ex-government operative who has less than four days to find his kidnapped daughter.
"I don't know you who you are. I don't know what you want. If you're looking for a ransom, I can tell you, I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills acquired over a very long career in the shadows, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that will be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you. And I will kill you."
With these chilling words to a member of a band of kidnappers, former government operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) begins the longest 96-hours of his life – and the hunt for the fearsome organization that has taken his daughter Kim. Mills had only recently given up his government career to be near Kim (Maggie Grace – TV’s Lost), who lives with Bryan's ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen – X-Men) and her new husband. Bryan's familial goal is nearly derailed when Kim requests his permission to spend time in Paris with a friend. All too aware of the dangers that could lie ahead for Kim in a foreign land, Bryan says no, but Kim's disappointment leads him to very reluctantly relent.
Bryan's worst fears are realized when Kim and her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy -- Click) are suddenly abducted -- in broad daylight -- from the Paris apartment at which they've just arrived. Moments before Kim is dragged away by the as yet unseen and unknown assailants, she manages to phone Bryan, who begins to expertly piece together clues that will take him to the darkness of Paris's underworld, and to the City of Light's plushest mansions. He will face nightmares worse than anything he experienced in black ops -- and let nothing and no one stop him from saving his daughter.
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.
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.
Liam 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. This aspect of the character and of the story was a significant factor in Neeson agreeing to take on the role. "I liked the idea of making a thriller that had good pace and aimed high on an emotional level," he says. "Above all, we see Bryan as a father who idolizes his daughter. But then, even though it's never been a fantasy of mine to play [an action hero], one gets a real kick out of shooting real movie baddies and driving like a racing car driver."
He also empathized with his character's horrific situation. "As a father, you can't imagine anything worse [than your child being put in danger]," says Neeson. "Of course, you wonder what your own reaction would be in that situation. You picture what you'd do to her kidnappers and you soon come to the conclusion that you'd do anything in your power to save your child. I found this particularly interesting territory, because I'm traditionally against violence, especially the kind of violence Bryan resorts to in the movie. But it's a case of 'them or me' and Bryan takes that situation to its logical conclusion."
The actor enjoyed bringing to life the character's physicality, for which he underwent a rigorous program prior to the start of production. "I keep pretty fit, but I had to crank up the level and intensity of my training," he says. "Action scenes are particularly tricky. You have to pay close attention to how you move, your body position, and never take your eyes off your scene partner. It requires a lot of energy, besides the safety issues. Each time, it's a real challenge.”
See Liam Neeson as he turns from one warm-hearted father to cold-blooded killer as 'Taken' opens at your favorite theaters beginning March 11. From VIVA International Pictures.