TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.10 “My New Best Friends” (dir by Jeffrey F. January)


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Oh my God!

Is it possible that we’ve actually had two good episodes of The Walking Dead in a row!?

Indeed it is.  In fact, I would say that tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead was the high point of the season so far.  I don’t know if the show’s production team has been listening to the complaints that many fans had during the first half of the season but, with both this episode and last week’s, it’s hard not to feel that the show is trying to correct some earlier mistakes.

For instance, there was no Negan in this episode.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Negan can be an intimidating bad guy.  But, like many great villains, Negan is at his most effective when he’s off screen.  The big mistake that the Walking Dead made during the first half of season 7 was going for an all-Negan, all-the-time format.  With each appearance, Negan became just a little bit more cartoonish and, as a result, he became less and less intimidating.

However, though this episode largely dealt with people trying to figure out what to do about the Saviors, Negan was still kept in the shadows.  As a result, Negan’s becoming a threat again.

Tonight’s episode followed two storylines, which is a definite improvement over the plodding pace of the first half of the season.  Both storylines were equally interesting, though I think everyone’s heart was invested in Daryl and Carol.

So, let’s get Rick out of the way.  Last week, I assumed that Rick had come across the Oceanside community but it turns out that I was wrong.  (And that’s not a bad thing because the Oceanside community kinda sucked.)  Instead, this is a community of people who live in a junkyard.  In many ways, they’re just as ritualized and borderline ludicrous as Ezekiel’s Kingdom.  The only question is whether or not the Junkyarders, like Ezekiel, realize how silly their little community is.  Are all of their rituals designed as an escape from grim reality or are they all just crazy?

The Junkyard is run by Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), who seems to have a permanent smirk and who speaks like an evil Queen in an Italian Hercules film.  But, and this is largely due to McIntosh’s performance and her chemistry with Andrew Lincoln, Jadis is still likable.  When she and Rick finally formed their alliance, I was happy because Jadis looks like she’s going to be a valuable ally in the inevitable battle with the Saviors.  Seriously, who doesn’t want to see Jadis kick Negan’s ass?

Of course, before Rick could talk to Jadis, he had to defeat an armor-covered walker that the Junkyard crew appeared to be using as a gladiator.  That was exciting and it’s nice to see that The Walking Dead is trying to think up new things to do with their undead.

But, ultimately, this show was all about Carol and Daryl.  Daryl has been hiding out at the Kingdom.  When Richard told Daryl that he had an idea for how they could convince Ezekiel to go to war with the Saviors, Daryl was all ears until he discovered that Richard’s plan involved leading the Saviors to Carol.  “She’s going to die anyway!”  Richard exclaimed.

Obviously, Richard doesn’t know Carol!

After giving Richard the beat down that he deserved for underestimating Carol, Daryl went to Carol’s cabin and seriously, their time together was everything.  For once, we got a moment of joy in this relentlessly grim series.

I always love the scenes between Carol and Daryl.  I love the way that both Daryl and Carol drop their guard when they’re together.  At its best, The Walking Dead has always centered around the question of how people can keep their humanity, even in the worst of circumstances.  Tonight, Carol and Daryl provided that humanity.

This was a good episode, one that reminded me why I watch this show in the first place.  Let’s hope that the rest of season 7 is just as good!

TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.9 “Rock in the Road” (dir by Greg Nicotero)


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Well, The Walking Dead is back and again, I am going to try to watch and review each episode for the Shattered Lens.  You may remember that I attempted to do this during the first half of season 7.  I reviewed the first five episodes of the new season and then…

Well, how to put this?

I got bored.

Seriously, I tried to make excuses for the glacial pace of season 7.  I kept telling myself that it was actually a brilliant narrative decision.  I defended the controversial first episode and I’ll continue to do so.  I enjoyed the second episode, largely because of the tiger.  But, after that, I started to get bored.  Each episode introduced us to a new community of boring people.  Each episode featured a lot of conversation but little action.  And what little action there was regularly interrupted by Negan popping up and screaming for half an hour.  As much as I like character development and conversation, this is a show about the end of the world.  There’s only so much time that I can spend watching Rick look depressed.

And so, after five episodes, I gave up on the first half of season 7.  It was just too slow and the show was spending so much time on what a badass Negan supposedly was that the zombies had become an afterthought.  Did season 7 really need a special 90 minute episode of Negan acting like a dick?  I still watched the show but mentally, I checked out.  And, judging by how the ratings cratered between the 1st episode (8.7 million viewers) and the 8th episode (5 million viewers), I was not alone in being dissatisfied.

But, in the break between the end of the first half of season 7 and tonight’s return, I’ve had time to recover.  Today, as I debated whether to actually watch the new episode of The Walking Dead, I considered that this show has hit rough spots in the past.  It’s never been a perfect show.  I wasn’t a huge fan of season 1 and, in later seasons,  I thought they spent way too much time at Herschel’s farm.  But, in the past, when The Walking Dead has needed to deliver, that’s exactly what it’s done.  In short, I decided to give The Walking Dead a second chance.

And, having just watched tonight’s episode, I’m glad that I did.  Rock in the Road was a good episode.  In fact, it may have been the best episode since The Well.  There were still flaws, of course.  As any true Walking Dead fan knows, this show has always been uneven.  The Walking Dead is a gloriously imperfect show but, at its best, it’s the type of show that can almost make those flaws seem admirable.  It’s easy to get frustrated with The Walking Dead‘s leisurely pace and rambling narrative.  But, ultimately, that leisurely pace has also led to some of The Walking Dead‘s most resonant moments.

Much like every other episode so far in season 7, Rock in the Road told its story slowly but, at the same time, it at least had a destination in mind.  Rick has finally snapped out of his self-pity and is now trying to build an alliance to fight Negan and the Saviors.  As this episode showed, it won’t necessarily be easy.  But, at least Rick is actually trying to do something!

There are several reasons why Rock in the Road was a noticeable improvement over the first half of the season.  Here’s a few:

  1. Action Rick is more fun than Shellshocked Rick.  As an actor, Andrew Lincoln is far more compelling when he’s standing up for himself than when he’s being grimly morose.  To be honest, I’ve never been sold on Rick as a leader.  When I watched him trying to build up his anti-Negan alliance, I found myself wondering if people were aware that Rick doesn’t exactly have a great track record as far as keeping people alive is concerned.  But, in the end, it didn’t matter.  Action Rick is fun, even if you know all of his plans are doomed to go terribly wrong.
  2. This episode actually had a few moments of humor.  The first half of season 7 was way too grim.  Just because the world is ending, that doesn’t mean people are going to stop being snarky.
  3. Ezekiel!  The first community that Rick and his group visited was the Kingdom so they got to meet King Ezekiel and Shiva.  Ezekiel and the Kingdom were the highlight of the first half of season 7 and it looks like that might be true for the second half as well.  I loved the entire sequence at the Kingdom, everything from Ezekiel’s promise to have an answer by “the morrow” to the wonderful moment when Jesus realized that he had forgotten everyone’s names.
  4. No Negan!  Well, that’s not quite true.  We heard Negan’s voice but, for the first time in a long time, we had an episode where the entire narrative didn’t have to stop just so Negan could launch another one of his insane gym coach monologues.  Like most great villains, Negan works best in small doses.
  5. That final scene!  I’m going to guess from the lack of men and children that those were Oceansiders who were surrounding Rick.  Rick’s smile provided a wonderful final shot for this episode.  When he flashed that smile, I realized that the old Rick was finally back.

I was really happy with Rock in the Road.  In fact, I’m happy enough to actually watch next week as well.  Hopefully, this episode will be the start of season 7’s redemption.

A Few Thoughts on …. The Walking Dead 7.5 “Go Getters” (dir by Darnell Martin)


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So far, season 7 of The Walking Dead has been pretty inconsistent.

Often times, I have felt like a lone voice in the wilderness, vainly defending the season premiere and continuing to hope that, at some point, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal of Negan is going to become something more than a one-dimensional caricature.

Like a lot of people, I kind of enjoyed the second episode but, in retrospect, that was mostly because of the weirdness of King Ezekiel and the majesty of Shiva.  The episode itself was extremely slow and featured one of those overly sentimental musical montages, the type of thing that never holds up particularly well on repeat viewing.

The Cell … oh, I tried to enjoy The Cell but basically, it was just an hour of Daryl not speaking and Negan doing his Negan thing.

And then there was last week’s episode, which appears to be going down in the history books as the consensus pick for the worst episode of The Walking Dead ever.

So, with all that in mind, I am going to cautiously state that I think that the latest installment, Go Getters, was a definite improvement over the last few episodes.  It was hardly a classic.  It certainly wasn’t The Walking Dead at its absolute best.  But, at the very least, it held my attention for 60 minutes, it seemed to actually move the story forward (as opposed to just being a stagnant portrayal of doom and gloom), and it left me looking forward to seeing what would happen next week.  Coming nearly halfway through an uneven season, Go Getters provided just a little bit of hope for the show’s future, telling us,  “The Walking Dead‘s not dead and growling in Herschel’s barn just yet!”

Of course, it helped that Go Getters was centered on Maggie, the only one of the main characters who has not left me pissed off or disappointed this season.  Following the deaths of Glenn and Abraham, Maggie and Sasha are hiding out at Hilltop Colony.  Gregory wants to kick them out, Jesus wants to protect them.  Eventually, the Saviors show up and we get to know Simon (Steven Ogg, investing the role with such menace that it’s hard not to wonder how different the season would be if he had been cast as Negan), who is one of Negan’s liuetenants.  Simon collects his tribute, humiliates Gregory, and leaves.  Meanwhile, Carl and Enid show up at Hilltop, having run away from Alexandria.  One-eyed Carl has decided to take revenge on Negan and who can blame him?  At this point, he has to know that his red-eyed, sniveling, neutered father isn’t going to do anything…

(Which brings up an interesting issue: we’re supposed to look down on Gregory for being so weak and subservient to the Saviors but really, he didn’t do anything different from what Rick did last week.  We’re supposed to give Rick a pass but not Gregory, which doesn’t seem quite right.  Gregory may be an ass but, as we should all know by now, nice guys don’t survive the apocalypse.)

So far, each episode this season has featured a different community being harassed by Negan.  I’m assuming that these communities are eventually going to come together to take out the Saviors.  If that’s the case, I can understand and even respect the deliberate build-up.  At the same time, this season is moving so slowly (and has been so repetitive) that it’s hard not to get frustrated when you’re watching on a weekly schedule.  One gets the feeling that Season 7 will be better when binge-watched but, for now, I find myself wishing the show would pick up the pace.

But, with all that in mind, I liked Go Getters.  I love the fact that Maggie refuses to surrender.  Despite all of the terrible things that have happened to her and the people that she loved, Maggie has not given up.  She hasn’t turned into a weak shell, like Rick or Daryl.  Nor has she retreated to a world of fantasy, like Carol.  Instead, Maggie lives, Maggie fights, and Maggie endures.  Glenn may be dead but Maggie the Cat is alive.

GO MAGGIE!

Film Review: The Divergent Series: Allegiant (dir by Robert Schwentke)


Oh, Who Gives A Fuck About This Fucking Movie?

Oh, who cares?

I really hate to start my review with such a negative statement but seriously, after watching Allegiant today, I am now convinced that the Divergent movies are perhaps the least interesting film franchise since the Paranormal Activity sequels.  Not only are the films so derivative of The Hunger Games that I’m always surprised that Donald Sutherland isn’t lurking around in the background but they’ve also managed to waste the talents of some of the best actors of my generation.  When you’ve got performers like Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller at your disposal, there’s no excuse not to be interesting.

I watched Allegiant with my BFF Evelyn and I’ll admit right now that we talked throughout the entire movie.  We laughed at the most serious of moments.  When Jeff Daniels showed up, we had a very long discussion about how, when he’s good, Jeff Daniels is really good but when he’s bad, he manages to come across as being the most boring man on the planet.  When Miles Teller betrayed his allies, Evelyn said, “Again!?” and then she had to remind me that Miles Teller always ends up betraying everyone in every Divergent film.

(It makes you wonder why the Tris (played by Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) always bring Miles Teller with them as opposed to just killing him.  I suppose some of it might have to do with the fact that he’s Miles Teller and he’s a badass.  In fact, he probably should be playing Four.  He certainly has more chemistry with Shailene Woodley than Theo James does.  In fact, Theo James always looks like he’d rather be doing anything other than appearing in another goddamn Divergent film.)

And yes, Evelyn and I did get a few dirty looks from some people in the audience but you know what?  I fully understand that it’s rude to talk through a movie but oh my God, we had to do something.  Allegiant is such a boring movie.  The film moves slowly, as if the filmmakers don’t understand that everyone in the audience has seen enough YA adaptations to already know everything that’s going to happen.  If you want to truly understand what film critics mean when they say that a film is “draggy,” try to watch an entire Divergent film without standing up to stretch your legs or get something to drink.  Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make while watching Allegiant is to actually concentrate on what’s slowly playing out on screen.

The Divergent films aren’t terribly complicated and yet, I always find myself struggling to follow them.  They’re so bland and forgettable that I can never remember what happened in the previous film.  As Allegiant started, I was like, “Why is Naomi Watts in charge of Chicago now?  Oh yeah, Kate Winslet did die at the end of the last movie!”  And then I remembered that Evelyn was Four’s mother.

And then my BFF Evelyn (as opposed to the film’s Evelyn) said, “Four is a stupid name,” and I started laughing way too hard.  In fact, we made many jokes about Four’s nickname and then eventually, I remembered that he was called Four because he only has four fears.  But it took me a while to remember and, once I did remember, I couldn’t help but think about how stupid a backstory that was.

Anyway, the plot of the film is that the movie’s Evelyn is now in charge of Chicago but she’s turning out to be just as bad as the system that she’s replacing.  So, Tris, Four, and friends escape from Chicago and explore the barren landscape that surrounds the city.  Eventually, they are found by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.  The Bureau is headed up by a boring guy named David (Jeff Daniels).  At first, David seems to be a good guy but then it turns out that the Bureau was behind the whole Faction experiment.  And now the Bureau wants to attack Chicago, wipe the slate clean, and start the experiment all over again.

Will Four and Tris go along with David’s plan or will they try to stop him?

At this point, who cares?

The thing that’s annoying about the Divergent films is that the storyline has potential.  At the heart of it all, the battle between the Factions and the Factionless has the potential to be a powerful, if simplistic, metaphor.  But the films are so plodding and take such an obvious approach that most of that potential is wasted.  Add to that, Shailene Woodley is a great actress.  In fact, I think it can be argued that she actually has more range than Jennifer Lawrence.  (Just check out her performance in The Spectacular Now.)  But the franchise has never known what to do with her uniquely off-center style.  Instead, it simply gives her speeches that feel as if they’ve been lifted from every other dystopian YA franchise.  The films insist on trying to make Shailene Woodley predictable and she deserves better on that.

As is typical of big franchise films nowadays, Allegiant is just part one of the Divergent finale and even the “to be continued” ending feels annoying because it’s so obviously lifted from every other franchise finale that’s ever been produced.  As with all the Divergent films, Allegiant never escapes the shadow of The Hunger Games.  The best that can be said about this franchise is that it will be over soon.  Hopefully, Shailene Woodley will be able to move onto a film more worthy of her considerable talents.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Apollo 13 (dir by Ron Howard)


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I just finished watching the TCM premiere of the 1995 Best Picture nominee, Apollo 13.  Of course, it wasn’t the first time I had seen it.  Apollo 13 is one of those films that always seems to be playing somewhere and why not?  It’s a good movie, telling a story that is all the more remarkable and inspiring for being true.  In 1970, the Apollo 13 flight to the moon was interrupted by a sudden explosion, stranding three astronauts in space.  Fighting a desperate battle against, NASA had to figure out how to bring them home.  Apollo 13 tells the story of that accident and that rescue.

There’s a scene that happens about halfway through Apollo 13.  The heavily damaged Apollo 13 spacecraft is orbiting the moon.  Originally the plan was for Apollo 13 to land on the moon but, following that explosion on the craft, those plans have been cancelled.  Inside the spacecraft, three astronauts can only stare down at the lunar surface below them.

As Commander Jim Lovell stares out the craft’s window, we suddenly see him fantasizing about what it would be like if the explosion hadn’t happened and if he actually could fulfill his dream of walking on the moon.  We watch as Lovell (and, while we know the character is Jim Lovell, we are also very much aware that he’s being played by beloved cinematic icon Tom Hanks) leaves his foot print on the lunar surface.  Lovell opens up his visor and, for a few seconds, stands there and takes in the with the vastness of space before him and making the scene all the more poignant is knowing that Tom Hanks, before he became an award-winning actor, wanted to be a astronaut just like Jim Lovell.  Then, suddenly, we snap back to the film’s reality.  Back inside the spacecraft, Lovell takes one final look at the moon and accepts that he will never get to walk upon its surface.  “I’d like to go home,” he announces.

It’s a totally earnest and unabashedly sentimental moment, one that epitomizes the film as a whole.  There is not a hint of cynicism to be found in Apollo 13.  Instead, it’s a big, old-fashioned epic, a story about a crisis and how a bunch of determined, no-nonsense professionals came together to save the day.  “Houston,” Lovell famously says at one point, “we have a problem.”  It’s a celebrated line but Apollo 13 is less about the problem and more about celebrating the men who, through their own ingenuity, solved that problem.

That Apollo 13 is a crowd-pleaser should come as no surprise.  It was directed by Ron Howard and I don’t know that Howard has ever directed a film that wasn’t designed to make audiences break into applause during the end credits.  When Howard fails, the results can be maudlin and heavy-handed.  But when he succeeds, as he does with Apollo 13, he proves that there’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned, inspirational entertainment.

Of course, since Apollo 13 is a Ron Howard film, that means that Clint Howard gets a small role.  In Apollo 13, Clint shows up as a bespectacled flight engineer.  When astronaut Jack Swiggert (Kevin Bacon) mentions having forgotten to pay his taxes before going into space, Clint says, “He shouldn’t joke about that, they’ll get him.”  It’s a great line and Clint does a great job delivering it.

Apollo 13 is usually thought of as being a Tom Hanks film but actually, it’s an ensemble piece.  Every role, from the smallest to the biggest, is perfectly cast.  Not surprisingly, Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Kathleen Quinlan, and Ed Harris all turn in excellent performances.  But, even beyond the marquee names, Apollo 13 is full of memorable performances.  Watching it tonight, I especially noticed an actor named Loren Dean, who played a NASA engineer named John Aaron.  Dean didn’t get many lines but he was totally believable in his role.  You looked at him and you thought, “If I’m ever trapped in space, this is the guy who I want working to bring me home.”

Apollo 13 was nominated for best picture but it lost to Mel Gibson’s film Braveheart.  Personally, out of the nominees, I probably would have picked Sense and Sensibility but Apollo 13 more than deserved the nomination.

Lisa Watches An Oscar Nominee: A Few Good Men (dir by Rob Reiner)


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So, late Saturday night, I turned over to TCM’s 31 Days Of Oscar and I was watching the 1992 best picture nominee, A Few Good Men, and I noticed that not only was there only one woman in the entire film but she was also portrayed as being humorless and overwhelmed.  While all of the male characters were allowed to speak in quippy one liners and all had at least one memorable personality trait, Lt. Commander Joanne Galloway (Demi Moore) didn’t get to do much beyond frown and struggle to keep up.

“Hmmmm…” I wondered, “why is it that the only woman in the film is portrayed as basically being a humorless scold?”  Then I remembered that A Few Good Men was written by Aaron Sorkin and it all made sense.  As I’ve discussed on this site before, Aaron Sorkin has no idea how to write woman and that’s certainly evident in A Few Good Men.  Joanne (who goes by the masculine Jo) is the one character who doesn’t get to say anything funny or wise.  Instead, she mostly serves to repeat platitudes and to be ridiculed (both subtly and not-so subtly) by her male colleagues.  You can tell that Sorkin was so busy patting himself on the back for making Jo into a professional that he never actually got around to actually giving her any personality.  As a result, there’s really not much for her to do, other than occasionally scowling and giving Tom Cruise a “that’s not funny” look.

(“C’mon,” Tom says at one point, “that one was pretty good.”  You tell her, Aaron Tom.)

A Few Good Men, of course, is the film where Tom Cruise yells, “I want the truth!” and then Jack Nicholson yells back, “You can’t handle the truth!”  At that point in the film, I was totally on Nicholson’s side and I was kinda hoping that the scene would conclude with Cruise staring down at the floor, struggling to find the perfect come back.  However, this is an Aaron Sorkin script which means that the big bad military guy is never going to have a legitimate point and that the film’s hero is always going to have the perfect comeback.  Fortunately, the scene took place in a courtroom so there was a wise judge present and he was able to let us know that, even if he seemed to be making the better point, Nicholson was still in the wrong.

As for the rest of the film, it’s a courtroom drama.  At Guantanamo Bay, a marine (Michael DeLorenzo) has died as the result of a hazing.  Two other marines (Wolfgang Bodison and James Marshall) have been accused of the murder.  Daniel Kafee (Tom Cruise), Joanne Galloyway (Demi Moore), and Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollack) have been assigned to defend them.  Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon) is prosecuting them.  Kafee thinks that the hazing was ordered by Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) and Lt. Kendrick (Kiefer Sutherland).

We know that Kendrick’s a bad guy because he speaks in a Southern accent and is religious, which is pretty much the mark of the devil in an Aaron Sorkin script.  We know that Jessup is evil because he’s played by Jack Nicholson.  For that matter, we also know that Kafee is cocky, arrogant, and has father issues.  Why?  Because he’s played by Tom Cruise, of course.  And, while we’re at it, we know that Sam is going to be full of common sense wisdom because he’s played by Kevin Pollack…

What I’m saying here is that there’s absolutely nothing surprising about A Few Good Men.  It may pretend to be about big issues of national security but, ultimately, it’s a very slick and somewhat hollow Hollywood production.  This, after all, is a Rob Reiner film and that, above all else, means that it’s going to be a very conventional and very calculated crowd pleaser.

Which isn’t to say that A Few Good Men wasn’t enjoyable.  I love courtroom dramas and, with the exception of Demi Moore, all of the actors do a good job.  (And, in Demi’s defense, it’s not as if she had much to work with.  It’s not her fault that Sorkin hates women.)  A Few Good Men is entertaining without being particularly memorable.

Review: Taken (dir. by Pierre Morel)


In 2009 a little film coming out of France gained a buzz from on-line film bloggers. The film wasn’t the latest arthouse attempt to relive the glory days of French New Wave. It wasn’t a film that’s become part of the extreme French horror that’s becme all the rage in the horror circles in the past decade or so. This film was an action-thriller starring Irish actor Liam Neeson with an ensemble cast of actors from the US, UK, France and Albania. The film I am talking about is Taken by French filmmaker Pierre Morel (his previous film, District 13 with it’s parkour action scenes would make it a cult hit) and produced by his mentor Luc Besson.

Taken at its most basic core is a film about a father’s love for his daughter who has gotten herself kidnapped by Albanian sex-traffickers while on vacation in Paris, France. Liam Neeson’s character gets introduced as a retired government worker and divorcee whose attempt to reconnect with Kim his teenage daughter (played by Maggie Grace of Lost). His attempts to impress his daughter and make her happy gets upstaged by his ex-wife’s richer husband and stepfather to his daughter. It doesn’t help that Neeson’s character Bryan Mills has skillsets not easily translated to the civilian sector. He’d take an offer of a bodyguard gig from one of his former co-workers and it’s during this security job that we get a clue as to what sort of government employee Bryan Mills was before his decision to retire.

Moving forward we finally get past the introductions of the characters (Famke Janssen as Mills’ ex-wife really comes across as a major harridan who seems intent on punishing Mills for selfish reasons). Mills learns of a trip Kim will be taking with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) to follow U2’s European concert tour. Mills, the clearheaded parent, doesn’t like this plan to have his daughter galavanting across Europe without adult supervision, but his guilt for having neglected Kim while he was working for the government plus his ex-wife’s insistence that Kim take the trip makes him relent, but not without giving her some advice to stay safe.

To say that Kim and Amanda get into a heap of trouble right as soon as they arrive in Paris would be an understatement. The two get kidnapped while staying at the luxury apartment of Amanda’s cousin. Before Kim is taken by the masked intruders (who’ve already taken Amanda) she’s able to make a desperate phone call to her father. Calm, collected and knowing that her daughter’s abduction was an inevitability, Mills instructs his daughter to relay to him as much information as possible about those abducting her. With that information in hand Mills heads to Paris to find his daughter (and to punish those who dare kidnap her).

From then on Taken becomes an action-thriller which barely gives the audience a chance to take a breather. Mills knows his time frame when it comes to finding his daughter gets shorter and shorter thus goes about his job searching for her in a deadly efficient manner. Mills becomes Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne rolled into one. There’s no witty, debonair Bond in this character. Mills goes about his business of interrogating, killing and gathering information with cold, calculating efficiency which leaves no room for Bondesque dialogue. The story moving forward once Mills arrive in Paris becomes almost an extension of Mills’ character. Writers Besson and fellow collaborator Robert Mark Kamen keep the dialogue to the barest minimum. We learn more about Neeson’s character through his actions more than we do during character interactions with other players in the film.

The film hinges on the audience buying Liam Neeson as a deadly, ex-CIA operative who manages to survive every violent encounter throughout the film (some by his own doing and others just trying to survive through it). From how people have reacted to this film and Neeson’s character I would say that it’s a big definitive yes that we buy Neeson as someone akin to Bauer and Bourne. In fact, I would say that Neeson’s Bryan Mills would be the more dangerous of the three. He has no compunction about using torture to gather information and barely breaks a sweat when killing those involved in some way in his daughter’s abduction. He has no bouts of guilt about what he has done in the past (probably killing as a secret agent) , what he’s doing in the present (killing to find his daughter) and what he’ll be doing in the future (probably thinking killing thoughts about anyone who will look at his daughter funny). Neeson’s Bryan Mills is a cold, efficient killing machine who doesn’t use fancy moves to take out his opponents and willing to shoot them in the back if it ends the fight in his favor.

The action sequences in Taken has some parkour influences, but not enough to make it distracting. There were no Michael Bay-style skewed camera angles, slo-mo shots and ADHD-style editing. Morel actually keeps the frenetic editing that made the Jason Bourne fight scenes so dynamic to a minimum. There’s just enough of it to make the fight scenes look brutal and painful, but not enough to make people nauseous. The climactic action sequence on the yacht of a rich buyer of sex-slaves goes by so quickly yet was more entertaining than half the prolonged action scenes from Bay’s Transformers sequel.

The rest of the cast barely keep up with Neeson in the film. They become tertiary characters whose job were to give Neeson’s character the motivations he needs to get the job done. I will say that Maggie Grace as Kim was believable as a teenager even down to the spoiled teen she starts off in the beginning. But again her character was just there to motivate Neeson’s character to go back to doing what he did well and that’s kick ass (he’d probably do it just as well while chewing bubble gum).

In the end, Taken was an action-thriller which more than surprised many people. It cemented Liam Neeson as one badass dude in the same league as Kiefer Sutherland’s Bauer and Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne. The film became a showcase for people to witness Neeson kickass and do it believably while Morel does just enough to keep the film from becoming too ridiculous. While Taken won’t herald the coming of another era of French New Wave, it does succeed in doing what it set out to do and that’s entertain, thrill and just give the audience some kickass escapist fare that some big-budgeted Hollywood studio titles never seem to do.