Neeson plays a former CIA operative named Bryan Mills who sets about tracking down his teenage daughter Kim and her best friend Amanda after the two girls are kidnapped by Albanian human traffickers for sexual slavery while traveling in France. The film grossed more than $226 million. Numerous media outlets have cited the film as a turning point in Neeson's career that redefined and transformed him to an action film star. A sequel, Taken 2, was released on 5 October 2012, and a third and final film, Taken 3, was released on 9 January 2015, making this the first instalment in the Taken trilogy.
Retired CIA field agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) attempts to build a closer relationship with his shy daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), who lives with her mother Lenore (Famke Janssen) and her wealthy stepfather Stuart (Xander Berkeley). While overseeing security at a concert for pop star Sheerah (Holly Valance), Bryan saves her from an armed attacker. Out of gratitude, Sheerah offers to have Kim assessed as a singer. Before Bryan can tell Kim, she asks her father for permission to travel to Paris with her best friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy). He initially refuses, but eventually agrees after Lenore persuades him. At the airport, he learns the girls are actually planning to follow the band U2 during their European tour.
Upon arriving at Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Kim and Amanda meet Peter (Nicolas Giraud), a Parisian local whose taxi sharing habits act as a ruse to learn more about them. Kim and Amanda go to Amanda's cousins' apartment, only for Kim to find that the cousins are in Spain. While Kim makes a call to her father, she witnesses Amanda being abducted in the living room. Kim follows her father's instructions to hide in a bedroom and listen closely. After she is dragged out from underneath the bed, Kim yells a description of her abductor. Bryan then hears a person breathing heavily, and suspects that one of the abductors has picked up the phone. Bryan then states that if they release his daughter, he will not go after the kidnappers, but warns them that failure will result in a hunt wherein death is an outcome. A man with an Albanian accent answers "Good luck."
Sam (Leland Orser), an old friend and former colleague of Bryan, deduces the kidnappers are part of an Albanian sex trafficking ring and identifies the man as Marko Hoxha. He reveals that, based on previous history, Kim will disappear for good if not found within 96 hours. Using Stuart's private plane, Bryan flies to Paris, investigates the apartment, and finds Peter's reflection in a picture on Kim's phone. He finds Peter at the airport and tries to capture him. While fleeing, Peter is hit and killed by a truck.
With his only lead dead, Bryan turns to an old contact, French former intelligence agent Jean-Claude Pitrel (Olivier Rabourdin), who now has a desk job at the same agency. Jean-Claude informs him of the local red-light district where the Albanian prostitution ring operates, but warns him not to get involved. However, with the aid of a translator, Bryan trails and infiltrates a makeshift brothel in a construction yard, where he finds a young woman wearing Kim's denim jacket. After a firefight with the mobsters, he takes the woman to a hotel, where he clears the drugs from her system.
The following morning, after Bryan returns from a heated conversation with Jean-Claude, the woman awakens and tells him of a safe house where the Albanians keep abductees. Posing as Pitrel, he enters the house, under the pretense of business renegotiation and police protection costs. Bryan identifies Marko as the man who spoke to him on the phone wherein a violent fight ensues, resulting in the deaths of all the other gangsters in the building minus Marko. A quick search reveals several heavily drugged girls, including a dead Amanda.
Using a makeshift electric chair, Bryan interrogates Marko for information, torturing him with electric current when the latter refuses to answer. Marko reveals that Kim was sold quickly due to her virginity and that virgins are of high value on the black market. Once Marko gives the buyer as Patrice Saint-Clair (Gérard Watkins), Bryan leaves him to die in agony from continuous electrocution. Later that evening, Bryan visits the Pitrels for dinner and, after discovering Jean-Claude's corruption, coerces him into providing Saint-Clair's location by wounding his wife in the arm with a gunshot.
Bryan infiltrates a secret sex slave auction beneath Saint-Clair's manor. As soon as Kim comes up for sale, he forces Abil, an Arab bidder, to purchase her. While making his way out, he is knocked out and chained to a pipe, but he manages to escape and eliminate Saint-Clair's henchmen. Bryan forces Saint-Clair to reveal Kim's whereabouts. The Saint-Clair reveals that she is on a yacht owned by a sheikh named Raman, before Bryan shoots him dead. Bryan gives chase after Raman's yacht, he then boards the yacht and dispatches his guards as well as Abil, who is revealed to be Raman's head of security, who gives Bryan a difficult fight. He eventually kills Abil, then enters Raman's suite, only to find Raman holding Kim at knife-point. Raman attempts to negotiate, but Bryan fatally shoots him in the head the moment he lowers his knife. Kim is reunited with her mother and stepfather. The film ends with Bryan and Kim visiting Sheerah.
The film was produced by Luc Besson's EuropaCorp. Pierre Morel had previously worked as a director of photography for Besson, and they had also collaborated on Morel's directorial debut, District B13. Besson pitched the idea of Taken one night over dinner and Morel immediately became attached to the idea of a father fighting to protect his daughter. Jeff Bridges was first cast as Bryan Mills, but after he dropped out of the project, Liam Neeson accepted the part, desiring to play a more physically demanding role than he was used to. Neeson at first thought the film to be no more than a "little side road" for his career, expecting it to be released directly to video.
The score of the film was composed by Nathaniel Méchaly and released on 27 January 2009.
All songs written and composed by Nathaniel Méchaly except where noted.
A trailer of Taken was released on 20 June 2008. The film saw its release on 27 February in France, 9 April in China and 26 September in UK in the year of 2008. It was released on 30 January in United States and 22 August in Japan in the year of 2009. The film was released under the title of 96 Hours in Germany, Io vi troverò (I Will Find You) in Italy and Заложница (Hostage) in Russia.
Taken grossed $145 million in the North America and $81.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $226.8 million, against a production budget of $25 million.
On its opening day in the North America, the film grossed $9.4 million, scoring the best opening day ever for Super Bowl weekend. It went on to make $24.7 million during its opening weekend playing in 3,183 theaters, with a $7,765 per-theatre average and ranking #1, which was the second highest Super Bowl opening weekend, at the time, behind Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour ($31.1 million). The film is also the highest grossing among the Taken films in North America.
The biggest market in other territories being South Korea, UK, France, Australia and Spain where the film grossed $15.47 million, $11.27 million, $9.43 million, $6.28 million, and $5.46 million respectively.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 58%, based on 168 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Taken is undeniably fun with slick action, but is largely a brainless exercise." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 50 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Richard Corliss of Time said the film "has nothing more on its mind than dozens of bad guys getting beat up and another one turned into instant roadkill." The Washington Post described the film as "a satisfying little thriller as grimly professional as its efficient hero" and likened the action to the Bourne film series. Derek Elley of Variety described the film as a "kick ass, pedal-to-the-metal actioner [...] that wisely doesn't give the viewer any time to ponder the string of unlikely coincidences [...] the film has the forward, devil-may-care momentum of a Bond film on steroids."
Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times described the film's premise as "unintentionally silly at times [...] Obviously, 'Taken' is not the kind of action film to spend much time worrying about its pedestrian script or largely indifferent acting, so it's fortunate to have Neeson in the starring role." Bryan Mills is characterized as "relentless attack machine who is impervious to fists, bullets and fast-moving cars, he uses a variety of martial arts skills to knock out more opponents than Mike Tyson and casually kill those he doesn't KO".
CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
In 2011, a self-proclaimed counter-terrorism expert was convicted of wire fraud after claiming the film was based on a real-life incident in which his daughter was killed. William G. Hillar, who pretended to be a retired Green Beret colonel, claimed to have spent more than 12 years lecturing US government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation on security issues. However, records revealed he had actually been a radar operator in the Coast Guard Reserve between 1962 and 1970, and had never been in the US Army. Nevertheless, his website claimed Taken was based on events involving him and his family. Hillar, who admitted the charges, was sentenced to 500 hours of community service at Maryland State Veteran Cemetery. He also agreed to repay $171,000 in speaking fees that he had received from various organizations to which he had presented himself as an expert in terrorism and human trafficking.
Taken was released as "Taken (Single-Disc Extended Edition)" on DVDs on 12 May 2009 and on Blu-ray on 9 December 2014. The film also saw release of "Taken (Two-Disc Extended Edition)" on DVDs and Blu-ray Discs on 12 May 2009. As of 5 February 2015, the film has sold 5,388,963 DVDs and 607,073 Blu-ray Discs and grossing $79,798,171 and $10,069,116 respectively totaling $89,867,287 in North America.In May 2012, the plot of "Leggo My Meg-O", the twentieth episode of the tenth season of the TV series Family Guy, is based on Taken. In "Brian's a Bad Father", Brian mentions that having Zooey Deschanel cast as the daughter in Taken would be thinking outside the box. A cutaway gag then depicts Bryan Mills (reprised by Liam Neeson) instructing the kidnappers to send him the head of Zooey Deschanel.
In "Hunt", a fifth season episode of the TV series Castle, when Richard Castle's daughter Alexis is kidnapped and taken to Paris, Castle follows and Det. Kevin Ryan asks, "Who does he think he is, Liam Neeson?"
A Saturday Night Live opening sketch in March 2014 featured Liam Neeson reprising his character from the film in response to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine and in defense of President Obama.
In the animated Cartoon Network series, The Amazing World of Gumball in the episode "The Kids", Gumball calls Mr. Fitzgerald and asks if he can talk to Penny, Mr. Fitzgerald thinks Gumball is being disrespectful to him due to his changing voice, and threatens Gumball by repeating Bryan Mills' phone speech in a scary voice. Later in the episode, Mr. Fitzgerald drives up to Gumball from his car and says the Bryan Mills line to him once more, but Gumball quickly cuts him off when he rolls up his car window, locks the door, and slams it shut in his face.
In Lego Dimensions, when Bad Cop interacts with Unikitty, Unikitty says she has a particular set of skills. Taken featured Bad Cop's voice actor Liam Neeson in the lead role.
One of the most popular and best-received commercials of Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015, an ad by Finnish game developer Supercell for its popular game Clash of Clans, featured Neeson parodying his character from Taken.
In "Red Means Stop", the finale episode of the sixth season of [[The Venture Bros.]], The Monarch and Henchman 21 trick Red Death's family into going to his mother-in-law's and call him claiming to have kidnapped them. Before he could finish his speech, Red Death quotes Neeson's "I will find you" speech. The Monarch apologises and slowly hangs up then start to cower for a few seconds.
In November 2010, Fox announced that EuropaCorp would produce a sequel directed by Olivier Megaton. Taken 2 was subsequently released in France on 3 October 2012, with Neeson, Janssen, Grace, Gries, Rabourdin and Orser reprising their roles from the first film. A third Taken film was released 16 December 2014.
In September 2015, NBC ordered a prequel series depicting a younger Bryan Mills with Clive Standen portraying Mills, Gaius Charles, Monique Gabriela Curnen, James Landry Hebert, Michael Irby, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Jennifer Marsala and Simu Liu are cast as John, Vlasik, Casey, Sam, Bernie, Riley and Faaron, members of OPCON. Brooklyn Sudano is cast as Asha, an attractive, well-educated young student from an upper-middle-class family who is furthering her education when she first meets Bryan and Jennifer Beals is cast as Christina Hart, the Special Deputy Director of National Intelligence who has taken Mills under her wing. Cultured and powerful with a wealth of field experience, her current government position has her overseeing an elite team of operatives who take care of America’s national security emergencies. Alex Cary will be the writer, executive producer and showrunner for the series and Alex Graves directing the pilot.