Liam Neeson Taken 3

Liam Neeson Taken 3

Liam Neeson Taken 3

Cast: Maggie Grace, Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen
Director: Olivier Megaton
Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
Rated: M
Running Time: 109 minutes

Synopsis: Liam Neeson returns as ex-covert operative Bryan Mills, whose reconciliation with his ex-wife is tragically cut short when she is brutally murdered. Consumed with rage, and framed for the crime, he goes on the run to evade the relentless pursuit of the CIA, FBI and the police. For one last time, Mills must use his 'particular set of skills," to track down the real killers, exact his unique brand of justice, and protect the only thing that matters to him now – his daughter.

In Taken, which became a global box-office sensation, distinguished actor and multi-award winner Liam Neeson, became the cinema's newest and perhaps most unexpected action hero. At the same time, the gravity he brings to the role of Bryan Mills provides added depth to the film series, which constantly flirts with the codes of the genre. In a manner that's original for a thriller, Bryan is as much defined by his love for his family as he is for his lethal skillset.

The character's unique qualities helped propel Taken to box-office glory, as it became of the one of the surprise hits of 2008. A few years later, Neeson, producer-screenwriter Luc Besson, and screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen returned for Taken 2, with Olivier Megaton taking the directorial reins. Once again, audiences cheered Neeson as an overprotective father whose skills – forged through years of covert ops – continue to be put to the test long after his retirement from the CIA.

Taken 3
Release Date: January 8th, 2015

About the Production

Having enjoyed inhabiting Bryan Mills and the character's world in Taken and Taken 2, Liam Neeson was ready to return for a third film, but wanted to ensure there was something new Taken 3 could offer audiences. 'I was excited to come back for the third film," he explains, 'but I did have some reservations at first, because what else could we do? Bryan Mills couldn't have his daughter taken again. Otherwise, he'd be up for really bad parenting. But our screenwriters, Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, came up with an interesting storyline."

Taken 3 sees Bryan facing his biggest challenge ever, as he deals with the aftershocks of his ex-wife's murder, while evading pursuit from several law enforcement agencies, hunting down the real killers, and most of all, protecting his daughter Kim.

'What makes Taken 3 a quintessential Taken movie is that, at its heart, it's still about Bryan Mills doing everything in his power to save his family," says Liam Neeson. 'That's why these films resonate with a global audience, because at their core, they are about the love and sanctity of family and the lengths we'll go to protect that."

Balancing the emotional and psychological elements with the no-holds-barred action sequences is an enormous challenge, especially in a motion picture franchise.

'The more action you have, the more you have to prepare the audience," says director Olivier Megaton. 'So you have to build your characters in another way. It's tricky because things keep snowballing. And that spiraling pace is even built into the characters' emotional and human development. First, we're in the midst of some emotional turbulence, and then the action bursts in, like a big typhoon. The two elements dovetail; it's a gradual process, like in a recipe. You have to calibrate every moment. When the action barrels in, you don't see it coming because you're submerged in that emotional chaos. Then suddenly you're in this physical chaos. That's the basic structure of this movie."

Liam Neeson elaborates on the films' careful mix of action and drama: 'Even though Bryan Mills is a guy with a -particular set of skills,' he's also a kind of everyman. People identify with his love of family. Parents will do anything for their kids and they see that in Bryan. For all his faults, he still is a very devoted father who'll do anything for his child. But I think audiences also enjoy the fact that he bucks the system and doesn't trust anyone in authority. And if he has to break the law, then he does.

'The underlying stories in the Taken films are solid," Liam Neeson continues. 'We've tried to avoid doing anything in excess just to excite an audience. The triggers for that action have always been very strong. And it's, of course, about Bryan Mills defending his family and protecting them, against all odds. You have that bedrock of a very stable relationship that's being tested all the time. So once you have that base in place and audiences believe in that charge of love – especially between Bryan and his daughter Kim – you can take the action anywhere you want."


That being said, Liam Neeson notes that he enjoys the films' non-stop action and the physicality of the role of Bryan Mills. In terms of thrills, Taken 3 is the biggest Taken yet. Highlights include lightning-fast fight sequences, an incredible freeway chase – and the film's overall relentless pacing.

'Taken 3 is a kind of do-or-die situation for Bryan," says Liam Neeson. 'He must rely on every possible skill he has, including hand-to-hand combat, explosives and sharpshooting, being able to think on his feet, and the ability to vanish into thin air. He's kind of part-machine. These skills just come to him after many years of practice. And once Bryan starts, he's really, really hard to stop."

He began learning these skills from the age of 18 or 19, when he first joined the U.S. Army. He was then selected for the Special Forces and was given the training that Navy SEALs and other covert operatives undergo.

'It's great to do all that action and fighting that Bryan has perfected through training and missions," says Liam Neeson. 'To bring that to life, we have a terrific stunt team, and I have a wonderful stunt double, Mark Vanselow, who's my buddy, and he's been in my life, professionally, for many years. He does all the hard stuff! Returning to Bryan Mills was a chance to work with Mark again and do all the fight training."

Maggie Grace, who in her role as Bryan's daughter Kim has seen her fair share of the action in the Taken films, continues to be impressed by its many facets. 'There's a kind of down-and-dirty fighting style in these movies," she says. 'It's not stylised and glossy; it feels really raw and real, like the characters are just doing the best they can, making split-second decisions and reacting.

'The fact that the film revolves around Liam, who has this incredible substance and gravitas, gives it a grounded feeling," Maggie Grace continues. 'He plays someone who's giving everything he can, as opposed to the cool action hero who's just gliding through life. He's a father. He's afraid for his life sometimes. He has moments of fear, moments where he's not sure how he'll react. You can tell it's all costing him something."

Olivier Megaton notes that there are two major action sequences in the movie, one involving a car chase and the other a plane crash. For the chase, the director was able to secure a Los Angeles freeway, which authorities agreed to close to all traffic for three weekends of filming.

After storyboarding the sequence's elaborate stunts, Olivier Megaton choreographed a complicated maneuver in which a container flies off the back of a tractor-trailer and then crushes a line of cars. 'Technically, we couldn't just drop a heavy container onto the road and have it pulverise everything in sight," Olivier Megaton explains. 'So we took a real container and put rings on each end. We attached it to a crane with steel cables and pulled it forward, so it would roll over the cars. Then in post-production, we erased the wheels. So, audience will see the container rolling over the cars."

A Porsche vs. plane crash sequence, in the film's explosive third act, was even more challenging. Says Olivier Megaton: 'There wasn't enough time to do the entire scene in CGI, so we considered building a model of a real plane, but that, too, wasn't possible. Instead, we bought two identical old planes and gutted them. It was too dangerous to actually have the plane moving, so we put a truck behind the plane to push it forward. We did the stunt live, and then erased the truck, with CGI. We used two planes and five Porsches and shot the entire sequence in three and a half days. So it was very practical and organic."

'Making a movie is like solving a puzzle, like a Rubik's cube," adds the director. 'At first, you have no idea how to attack these things. You have to figure out every element on almost every shot. If you try to be too clever, it's too complex. So you look for simpler solutions. But in the end, everything clicks."

A Relentless Cop

An exciting character new to the Taken universe is Detective Frank Dotzler, portrayed by noted actor and director Forest Whitaker. Dotzler leads the police investigation into the murder of Bryan's ex-wife Lenore, as well as the pursuit of the chief suspect – Bryan Mills.

'The Dotzler character adds a new dimension to the film, elevates the previous story logic, and brings a new energy to the narrative," says Olivier Megaton. Moreover, notes Liam Neeson, Dotzler is a formidable figure. 'It's quite possible that in Dotzler, Bryan has finally met his match," he notes.

Forest Whitaker was intrigued by the character and his unique suspect. 'Dotzler is a police detective in Los Angeles who's assigned to their more difficult cases, but he's never experienced anything like this one," says Whitaker. 'The more he learns about the murder and about Bryan, the more he uncovers this other world that's layered underneath. Dotzler recognises Bryan's methodologies, which indicate that Bryan is an agent from some covert organisation. Now, he has to figure out the specifics of Bryan's background to solve the crime.

'Then he asks himself, -If Bryan is a covert operative, why would he leave a knife with his fingerprints on it on the scene? Why would he be making the mistakes that an amateur would make?' So it appears to him that someone is possibly setting Bryan up. But to figure out who those people might be, he must stop Bryan because he's Dotzler's only clue as to what actually unfolded at the murder scene."

But Bryan's not only fled, he's caused a great deal of collateral damage. 'Dotzler recognises pretty quickly that something's awry," Forest Whitaker adds. 'He goes by his instincts. I think that's a nice thing. When you can combine intellect and instincts, you have an interesting character that maybe can take you somewhere you haven't been before."

The Mills Family

While Whitaker is new to the Taken family, the actors portraying the Mills clan make a welcome return. Chief among them, of course, is Liam Neeson, for whom Maggie Grace professes a familial bond. 'Liam Neeson is incredible," says the actress. 'He's been a big part of my life and a big influence, not just as an actor, but also as a person. We've been making these films for such a long time and we've traveled the world together. So he really feels like family to me. He's someone I truly love and the best -movie dad' anyone could ask for."

Famke Janssen, who returns as Bryan's ex-wife Lenore, echoes Maggie Grace's sentiments about their co-star. 'What I value most about working on the Taken films is collaborating with Liam Neeson and being part of what now has become a family," she says. 'I love the idea of reuniting with everybody. And in this case, Lenore, despite her unfortunate demise, does propel the story."

For Famke Janssen, the new film offered the opportunity to further explore the evolving dynamic between the former spouses. 'There's a lot of love between Bryan and Lenore," she explains. 'For whatever reason, it hasn't worked out. That often happens in relationships you enter when you're young. You go your separate ways in life. Nevertheless, Bryan and Lenore have not grown that far apart. They have their daughter. And it's nice to see that, in this film, there's a romantic spark, which we touched upon at the very end of Taken 2. But then things happen and that is shut down."

Maggie Grace appreciated her character's transition to adulthood. 'Thank goodness, Kim has grown up a little bit!" she exclaims. 'We shot the first film eight years ago, so we've all grown. Kim's had some unexpected developments in her life, and now she's in -the family way.' So that's a lot for her to deal with, and it makes her quite vulnerable. Kim is trying to process the whirlwind of events without having the time or space to do it."

The family dynamic is complicated by Lenore's troubled relationship with her current husband, Stuart St. John, portrayed by Dougray Scott. Dougray Scott sets up the relationship and his confrontation with Bryan: 'Stuart and Lenore are having difficulties, so he goes to see Bryan and asks him to give him a little space, so he can work things out with her. Then, Lenore is found murdered and there's a police investigation. Is Stuart a suspect? What's his involvement? He's incredibly upset about the whole incident.

'Stuart is a character you can play completely truthfully," Dougray Scott continues. 'What I find interesting about him is that he seems like a normal guy. Yet, Stuart is also very manipulative. At times we see a cold streak in him. I think he's caught between a rock and a hard place, and then he makes decisions " not necessarily the right decisions. Yet, he loves his wife. And the trauma of losing her is real."

The Director
Olivier Megaton's return to the director's chair for Taken 3 was welcome news to the cast. 'Olivier Megaton is phenomenally efficient and proficient with the camera. He always had multiple cameras working simultaneously, and that's exciting," says Liam Neeson. 'He's been able to not only maintain and expand upon Luc Besson's vision, but bring his own unique touches to the franchise. He marries relentless action with true character and heart."

Adds Maggie Grace: 'Olivier Megaton runs on pure caffeine and determination. He doesn't seem to eat or sleep during a shoot. His way of thinking is incredibly visual. He has cameras on the tops of buildings, and inside refrigerators!"

Forest Whitaker, a noted director in his own right (Hope Floats), says watching Olivier Megaton work was an eye-opening experience. 'I try not to cross roles too much but, as a filmmaker, I couldn't help but watch Olivier Megaton's style because it's unique, especially the way he operates the camera, and he has such intimacy with his crew and the actors. The techniques he utilizes make it very exciting when the footage is cut together."

Olivier Megaton was always on the move, which the cast recognised at the end of the shoot by gifting him with his own director's chair–which he had never used during production. 'I'd never even seen it before, and the chair was still in the plastic bag from the factory," he remembers.

Olivier Megaton elected to shoot Taken 3 on 35mm film with anamorphic lenses, eschewing the digital format preferred by most of today's filmmakers. 'Everybody wants to shoot digital today, but I decided to go back to something more organic and to shoot on film," he explains. 'Movies today are losing that special quality available only with film."

Unlike the first two stories, Taken 3 is set entirely in Los Angeles, giving the new film a very different look from its predecessors. 'Everybody knows L.A., but seeing it through French eyes and a French sensibility is totally different. We choose different locations, and we shot the stunts differently," notes Olivier Megaton.

Taken 3 was filmed in Los Angeles, Alicante, Spain and Paris.

Famke Janssen notes the dichotomy of a French filmmaker helming a story about Americans, set in one of the U.S.'s largest cities. 'What's always funny to me is that people think of the Taken films as being American made, but they really are French films. Liam Neeson, of course, is Irish, I'm Dutch, and Dougray is Scottish. Yet when you watch Taken 3, it feels like the ultimate American film. I think it's really interesting that Luc Besson, who lives in Paris and has a very French lifestyle and sensibility, somehow makes these movies that seem as American as you can possibly imagine."

Final Thoughts

For Liam Neeson, Taken 3 is the culmination of a film series that has both thrilled and moved audiences around the world. 'I think moviegoers are in store for a cinematic joyride, many thrills and spills and certainly a lot of heart," he says. 'And I'm a big believer in heart in movies."

'This film is an insane trip, from beginning to end," adds Olivier Megaton. 'We fill every minute of screen time with curiosity and surprise and pacing."

Taken 3
Release Date: January 8th, 2015

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