A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this "hard PG-13" thriller seems just a drop of blood or two away from an R rating. Not only is there a great deal of violence, but a disturbing subplot centers on young women being kidnapped into the seedy world of sex slavery. The themes of revenge, vigilantism, sex and drug trafficking, and international political corruption are too intense for young audiences. Language is moderate ("s--t," "a--hole"), but drug use is widespread (though not a lot of actual use is shown on camera), and characters also drink and smoke.
What's the story?
In TAKEN, Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a former CIA operative who's retired early to Los Angeles to be closer to his 17-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). Bryan reluctantly agrees to let Kim travel to Europe with her impetuous friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy), but only if she takes an international cell phone with her and promises to call every day. His concerns seem quite justified: Within half an hour of landing in Paris, Kim and Amanda are kidnapped into a disturbing world of sex trafficking. Luckily for Kim, she was checking in with her dad when the kidnapping took place, so Bryan is immediately able to use his counterintelligence skills to track down the European thugs responsible for her capture.
Is it any good?
Neeson is an actor of considerable gravitas, and it's downright puzzling why this is his first meaty role in a mainstream film since Batman Begins. While he's well cast as an unstoppable father who could -- and would -- do serious damage to anyone in order to save his daughter, he's just too good for this revenge flick. And Grace, who's actually 25, plays Kim as way too immature (she even affects the awkward run of an uncoordinated 8-year-old girl). No wonder she was such an easy mark.
Still, this thriller could be used as a cautionary tale for trusting high school girls traveling abroad. Kim and Amanda disclose so much information to a complete stranger -- even sharing a cab with him -- that it's eye-rollingly infuriating. Perhaps French director Pierre Morel thinks wealthy L.A. teens would act this way, but it's hard to swallow. But even harder to believe is that a CIA-trained specialist would kill seemingly everyone (and that's no exaggeration) he meets without saving anyone other than his daughter. Morel shows dozens of women enslaved for their bodies, but in the end audiences are supposed to just forget about them and cheer for Kim? That's quite disturbing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes this PG-13-rated movie different from R-rated films.
Is the violence less graphic or upsetting? Why or why not? What impact does seeing this kind of violence have on teens?
Families can also discuss the ethical and moral lines that characters cross in the movie. Are Bryan's actions justified because he finds his daughter?
Kim and her friend partially to blame for their perilous dilemma? What mistakes did they make?
How are Americans portrayed in the film (versus Europeans)?
- In theaters: January 30, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: May 12, 2009
- Cast: Famke Janssen, Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace
- Director: Pierre Morel
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language
For kids who love thrills
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.