Liam Neeson always makes me believe him. Even in some of his poorer works --remember Darkman, anyone?--Neeson has the ability to suck me into the world of his character, and make me think, even for a short time, that this world is real.
Taken is the story of Bryan Mills, played by Neeson, whose daughter, Kim, is abducted while on a trip to Europe, and sold into the sex slave trade. It's a simple, basic story told in a straightforward manner: there are no montages, extensive flashbacks or minutes wasted in this flick. Taken is rather like watching an episode of 24; at an hour-and-a-half, the film is tight, with little excess, and the main plot is always in focus.
Mills is searching, frantically, for his daughter, and the audience feels the urgency along with him.
Taken succeeds despite its flaws. The first 20 minutes sets up Mills as a misunderstood father and retired government operative, desperate to re-connect with his 17-year-old daughter. He's paranoid and overly cautious, and too controlling when it comes to Kim's safety.
There's a lot of information to cram into that 20 minutes, and Taken suffers a little in character development.
Neeson also doesn't look like a bad-ass early in the film. He's a bit reticent, and dweeb-ish. A plot device used in the first act to establish his ruthless physical skills is effective, though, and I didn't doubt Mills for the rest of the flick.
The final 70 minutes is a rush of action played out with intensity and high drama. At the end of Taken, I found myself almost celebrating the ending out loud. "Hell, yes!" I cared about Mills and Kim, and wanted everything to work out for them.
Neeson made me believe.