Thoughts on: Taken 3

Spoilers ahead

Even though I’m writing about it, I still don’t know how I feel about Taken 3. Or the franchise for that matter. The first film was good, the second was stupid, the third was more stupid. My favourite moments from the series are the ridiculous, implausible action scenes. I enjoy some moments ironically, others earnestly. The Taken films don’t fall into ‘so bad it’s good’ territory, but also aren’t impressive popcorn action movies either. They exist somewhere in-between, in a space where only this franchise resides.

Taken 3 takes the stupidity of the second film up a few notches. In Taken 2, I laughed at the ridiculousness of Mills (Neeson) skidding a shot-up car into a US embassy, and with one phone call walking away free. I likewise giggled when Mills found his bearings by having his daughter detonate grenades across the city. But neither of those scenes match up the delightful nonsense of having Mills escape from police by driving a car down a lift shaft. The car explodes. Mills walks away unharmed. That is the first of two exploding cars that Mills escapes from without a scratch. In one film.

The joke I’d heard before seeing Taken 3 was about director Olivier Megaton using a megaton of cuts during his action scenes. There are two scenes—Mills being chased on foot by the police, Mills escaping in a police car—that have more rapid-fire editing than any film I’ve ever seen. I presume this was Megaton going for a visceral feel, but it made large portions of each scene incomprehensible. Some shots served no purpose—we see Mills’ shadow as he scales a fence, a close-up of a steering wheel as he drives—that take effort to recognise what we’re looking at, and so distract from the scene’s purpose. We see a truck’s trailer from the side, then we reverse and see it from the other. I’m sure this is breaking some law of cinematic grammar.

Good to see Russians portrayed in a non-stereotypical way, all colourful shirts, booze and automatic weapons. One watches Mills’ car explode. Assuming him dead, he says “Okay, let’s go get drunk”. Clever writing there.

I saw a lot of a man in his pants

The camera dwelled on a lot of characters for no apparent reason, unless we were to suspect they were dodgy. Police officers Garcia and Smith, even the smiley bagel vendor were given more screen time than you’d expect.

The film spends a fair amount of time with Detective Dotzler (Forest Whitaker). It focuses unnecessarily on his eccentricities (he plays with a rubber band and carries a knight chess piece). A cynical part of me wondered if this was an attempt to separate him from other film detectives with the goal of him having his own spin-off films. Taken is a money-making machine after all.


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