Caution: Contains Some Spoilers. . . but it’s an action movie, so you probably guessed what happened anyway.
Last week I saw Taken with Liam Neeson. It was actually quite enjoyable! The story is pretty straightforward: Neeson is an ex-agent (calling himself a “preventer”) and went through an extremely bitter divorce with the mother of his daughter. His ex-wife remarried some rich guy and Neeson tries very hard throughout the film to make up for lost time with his kid, having to compete with the rich step-dad’s wealth and attention. Against his better judgment, he agrees to let his 17 year-old daughter go on a trip to Europe with her 19 year-old friend. While there, they are kidnapped by some Albanian jerks who are known for abducting young women, drugging them and selling them as prostitutes. Liam Neeson immediately flies to Europe to get his daughter back, using his ole tricks from his long career as a bad ass. The acting was good, the action sequences were awesome (how often do you get to see Liam Neeson kick serious butt?) and I was pretty impressed with how this shoot-em-up action film handled the issue of sex slavery. It was, for the most part, tasteful and I’m glad that such a troubling topic was brought to the main stream as a serious subject instead of in a pervy, “look at all the hot chicks” way. I highly recommend the movie.
Despite my high praise, here are my beefs.
1) In the real world, sex slavery occurs across all genders/classes/races/etc., but in the film most of the girls in this film were white, European women. I think that this plays to white people’s general fear of white women being violated and perhaps ignores the women of color who are also abducted, abused and sold. They do say earlier in the film that in this particular sex ring, Americans are the most expensive and the most sought after, so maybe that’s why they’re all Euro/American looking. . . but it just made me think about the sex trade in Asia and how the film doesn’t address it. I realize that this is picky and perhaps asking too much of this particular film, but I wish it was addressed in some way.
2) Neeson’s daughter is a virgin in the movie, which is fine. However, I feel like the urgency of the film is highly motivated by this fact. Would it have been less stressful for Neeson or the audience if she wasn’t? It seemed an unnecessary fact to bring up. In fact, her friend is not a virgin, is portrayed as promiscuous and, guess what, she is killed. I was disappointed by this classic “slut”-killing trope often seen in action/horror films. One positive note, though. The friend is seen viciously fighting back when the abductors come to get her, breaking furniture, screaming, struggling wildly. I’m glad that she was depicted as fighting back, even if she doesn’t get away. Anyway, the daughter is kept alive longer BECAUSE she is “certified 100% pure” (how the hell could they prove that anyway?) and is sold for more money. Is this some sort of ulterior message that virgins have a better chance of survival or are more worth saving? I don’t know. . . it just seemed superfluous to me that she hadn’t had sex yet. So what? NO ONE should be abducted and sold, I don’t care if they’ve slept with zero or a hundred people.
3) Neeson goes on a rampage to get his daughter back (which is pretty fricken cool). He breaks up a couple sex houses, killing the bastards running it. He goes through the horrible, make-shift tents where these girls are drugged and violated, searching, ripping men off of girls who he thinks are his daughter. But after that’s all said and done, what happens to the girls he freed. . . .? The film doesn’t deal with them. There’s not even a line of text at the end saying, “The police found the other women who were sold and helped them return to their families.” Or something. Anything. Liam helps one other girl because she might know where his daughter is. . . but after he gets the information from her, she’s not seen again. At the end when Liam is kicking ass on a boat to get to his daughter, but there area two other girls on the boat. . . and after he kills the bad guy and reunites with his daughter, the other girls are nowhere to be seen. This was confusing to me. I kept thinking as they left the scene, “What about the other girls?!”
4) This last point is more a critique of the daughter’s acting. I was also a little confused at how flippant she seemed after the whole ordeal. No signs of PTSS. Which maybe is fine, maybe it hasn’t hit her yet. I just felt the actress could have looked a little more haunted instead of just really relieved, as if she had lost her iPhone and her dad had found it in his car. But that’s just because I’m a tough critic of acting ;)
I keep trying to write sentences to apologize for being picky. But screw that. When it comes to depictions of women, I am picky. I demand responsibility for what images/messages/whatever that we put out to humanity.
So that being said, despite these four points above, I really liked the film, thought it was quite good and I hope you get a chance to see it!