10 Very Particular Thoughts About Liam Neeson's 'Taken' Speech
The thriller gave us the greatest 40-second action-movie monologue of the 2000s, and maybe ever.
The 2009 action spectacular Taken didn't just kickstart a new phase of Liam Neeson's career. The movie also gave us a speech that we all now pretty much agree is the greatest 40-second action-movie monologue of the 2000s, and possibly of all time. If you're like me, you've watched this clip of Bryan Mills' phone call with a man who has kidnapped his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), roughly 500 times since the movie came out on January 30, 2009, and you've almost certainly heard its most famous line misquoted every other week by various middle-managers in your office. So I'd like to honor the legendary scene's anniversary by revisiting this unforgettable cinematic moment in the full context it deserves. Here are the 10 things that came to mind as I rewatched Taken today.
He does not say "a special set of skills."
The entire speech, with the oft-misquoted line helpfully bolded, goes: "I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you. I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you." But everyone always mangles the "set of skills" part, usually by saying "a special set of skills." Never say this.
Bryan is not making a threat.
Bryan is merely stating the inevitable repercussions of kidnapping his daughter and offering a deal for her safe return that, in retrospect, after it's too late for them, and they are merely bloody carcasses with pummeled faces, will look pretty sweet to the bad guys. Bryan is the Chuck Norris meme confirmed.
The phone call is longer than you remember.
Bryan's epic spiel clocks in at 40 seconds, but it comes at the end of a four-minute conversation with Kim, during which he expresses fatherly concern that she hasn't followed the conditions she agreed to prior to her trip, like calling him when she lands and not letting her friend Amanda do really, really dumb things, like telling kidnappers where they're staying and immediately blasting really loud music so that the sum total of her apartment experience is dancing by herself in the living room for multiple minutes before said kidnappers haul her away. So much is conveyed during the derailed phone call between Bryan and Kimmy. In quick succession, we learn that Kimmy realizes that Amanda might be a bad influence, that she understands why she should have listened to her dad, that he has a very cool briefcase filled with spy gear, and that Bryan is absolutely lethal ("They're going to take you," he informs his very frightened daughter just before she is taken and the speech begins).
Kim's friend Amanda is the devil incarnate.
Bryan's worst nightmare isn't that someone might harm his daughter. It's that someone will put his daughter in a position to be kidnapped. Let's face it: Due to her obliviousness, Amanda is 100 percent responsible for this movie trilogy and, as such, deserves a medal. But she loses that medal based on the following pieces of evidence: she's wearing Ugg boots in the summer; she's a 19-year-old woman in the year 2009 whose plan, along with 17-year-old Kim, is to follow U2 around on their European tour; in just the first few minutes after she appears onscreen, she tells a French stranger named Peter their names, where they're from, and where they're staying, and invites the stranger to come over before the party that she's also agreed to attend with him -- all without listening to or asking Kim; she reveals to Kim that the apartment they're staying at will be all theirs because the cousins who she'd told Kim (and therefore Bryan) would be there are in fact in Spain; and as soon as they arrive at the sprawling fifth-floor apartment, she immediately splays herself across the couch, announces that she's going to sleep with Peter because "I hear French guys are amazing in bed," pressures Kim into losing her virginity while they're in Paris, blasts music, and dances with herself for at least five minutes while Kim goes to the bathroom and then talks to her dad. But she didn't deserve to die. Poor Amanda.
No smartphones for this guy.
Look at that primitive Nokia! Bryan has no need for newfangled technology like this iPhone everyone seems to be talking about. He's going to use what he's always used and give his daughter a similar phone with "Daddy" programmed on speed dial like he's always done.
Bryan is the best dad in movie history.
One thing that is absolutely true: Bryan Mills loves Kim. What other practical ex-C.I.A. "preventer" would ask a pop diva he's guarding about how his daughter might get into the music industry, overcome his innate fears about the bad areas of Paris enough to let her travel there with a friend he's never met, say that asking him not to worry "is like telling water not to be wet" (aw!), and, after the airport drop-off, immediately go to get the ONE photograph he shoots of her with his disposable camera at the airport developed. Only Bryan Mills, good dad, that's who.
Bryan is the worst dad in movie history.
Another reading of Bryan Mills is that he's maybe a little too protective. As it turns out, rightly so, but he was overly protective even before Kimmy foolishly decided that Amanda was a safe, smart friend to go on a European vacation with. Maybe he should let her live her life the way she wants to! "Let people live!," say the "Bryan Mills is a bad dad" people. But I will say that he's almost certainly a good dad, because he flies to Europe at the drop of a hat to save his daughter from human-trafficking ogres.
What happens immediately after the call is THE BEST.
His first stop after the phone call is Stuart's house. Stuart (played by the great character actor Xander Berkeley) is married to Bryan's ex-wife, and his megamansion is where Kim now lives. And Bryan goes over there and just completely owns Stuart in seconds. We learn that Stuart has been involved in an oil deal with a bunch of Russians that went south five years ago, and Bryan knows this "because I was not going to let my daughter live with someone without knowing everything about them." He also knows that Stuart has a lease agreement with NetJet though an umbrella company in the Bahamas, and that he should get him on a plane to Paris "an hour ago." That'll be all, Stuart!
It was only the second-best speech of January 2009.
Just ten days before Taken came out, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States and gave his memorable speech to a verifiably massive crowd. But only Bryan knows whether he voted for Obama or McCain, and he's not going to tell you or anyone else, ever. (He totally voted for McCain.)
And so began Neeson's action phase.
Neeson, who was 56 upon the release of Taken, took on a string of similar roles in the ensuing decade but has said that 2019's Cold Pursuit was the last high-octane action movie he'll do. In most of them, his character lives by a code, and that code boils down to "you really should not have messed with my secret code-having ways." In the Taken series (including Taken 3 -- and you are heartless if you don't cry at the end of Taken 3), he famously has a particular set of skills, but he'll only use them if you give him no choice. The same goes for his double-crossed turn in 2018's hugely underrated The Commuter and the avenging snowplower he plays in the less memorable Cold Pursuit. It's the same "man with a code" trope we've seen countless times -- in Shane, in Clint Eastwood Westerns, in Bruce Lee movies, in Harrison Ford's "I'm just protecting my family!" thrillers, and currently in the John Wick series -- and no doubt we'll see many more of these sorts of characters in the years ahead. I'm excited. Meanwhile, Bryan Mills will always be here, worrying about his daughter and delivering cogent statements into non-smartphones to men trying to harm her. Maybe they'll listen next time?