Saturday, April 21 , 2018, 6:16 am | Fair 50º


Cinema In Focus: ‘Taken’

Liam Neeson struggles to find his teen daughter, kidnapped into the sex trade overseas.

3 Stars — Disturbing

The unbelievable horror of human slavery is an epidemic reality for millions today. Although slavery is often experienced by children forced to serve in militias or manual labor, the kidnapping of women for forced prostitution is increasing. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) “Trafficking Statistics Projects” reports that 13 agencies estimate the number of women involved in the sex trade against their will ranges from 500,000 to 4 million. These numbers are so overwhelming that we can easily become numb to their meaning. But when a filmmaker tells the story of one specific 17-year-old woman –– innocent, protected, full of life but naïve about the dangers of the world –– who is kidnapped and sold into prostitution, then we begin to feel the horror of this evil. That is the experience director Pierre Morel provides in his film Taken.

Based on the writing of Parisian Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) and Robert Mark Kamen (Lethal Weapon 3), the film is rich in violence and modest in most everything else. But where it succeeds is in its primary purpose of exposing the indescribable evil of taking a young woman and enslaving her for sexual purposes. We identify with this father who would do whatever it takes to get her free.

The father is retired CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson). Having given his life to serve his country, Mills has sacrificed his relationship with his family, including his only daughter, Kim, played by Maggie Grace. Deciding to dedicate himself to restoring his relationship with her, Mills retires and moves to Los Angeles to be nearby. But soon after his arrival, Kim’s mother and Mill’s ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), meets with him and their daughter to ask him to sign papers for Kim to travel to Paris with her best friend. Mills is so aware of the danger of a young woman traveling alone that he rejects the request. But realizing he will lose his opportunity to have a relationship with his daughter by his refusal, he relents.

What happens next is that both Kim and Amanda are “taken” by an Albanian gang operating in Paris. Brutally kidnapped and drugged, they are prepared to be sold into an international sex trade. It requires all of Mills’ skills to attempt to redeem her.

We won’t spoil the intrigue of the film, but the message is clear. This parasitic evil that preys upon our young must be stopped. Although it is obvious that such an industry could not exist without bribing police and others in authority, it is going to take more than honest police to stop this evil. It is going to require a change in the hearts of the people who buy these helpless girls treating them with respect and honor, rather than as commodities. Changing hearts is a different kind of skill set than that which Mills spent his life acquiring, but it is clearly a necessary skill we must seek for ours and our children’s sake.


» The protected life of a teenager in America makes our children all the more naïve about the dangers of the world. What do you think we need to do to prepare our children for the realities of our world?

» The willingness of men throughout the world to pay for sex has created an industry that is as old as civilization. Do you believe there is a cure for this? Why or why not?

» The dispassionate vengeance with which Mills works to secure his daughter’s freedom leaves a string of dead bodies. Do you believe his actions were just? Why or why not? What would you have done?

Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit

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