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Soundtrack review: Taken (Nathaniel Mechaly – 2008)

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Soundtrack review: Taken (Nathaniel Mechaly – 2008)


“Taken” caused quite a stir when it came out. It was the thriller that reinvented Liam Neeson as a badass action hero. I loved the movie and I loved Liam in this “Die Hard” type adventure. The movie was simple and efficient while the main hero was driven and precise as a surgeon. “I don’t know who you are, but I am going to find you and I am going to kill you” says Liam to the kidnappers of his daughter before proceeding to do so. Lines that entered pop culture…

I didn’t pay attention to the music during the movie because I was too busy gasping at the action and revenge. It’s time to visit Nathaniel Mechaly’s score now and I am expecting electronic action pulses, slim and Bourne like. The first surprise I get is “Permission to go to Paris”: this is my kind of poignant, low key piano theme inviting me to feel and care. It reminds me of the mood from “Man on fire” and that’s a score that made me care a lot. It’s one of those minimalistic pieces that make you take a little break and reflect. This melody still echoes in my ears when all the fighting starts.

While the movie is precise and alert, the action part of the score feels a little murky. I get a feeling of insomnia when I listen to cues like “96 hours” or “The construction site”. The pace of the music doesn’t match my memory of the movie. These cues sound to me as if I was watching Liam Neeson run after the bad guys and stumble from time to time. He gets up, gets one of them, then he slips and falls again. He spends some time checking if he’s ok then he gets up again and finally kicks ass. That happens in “Escape from St Clair”, the most honest action cue from the album.

But if the action cues are almost forgettable to me, Nathaniel Mechaly nails the dreamy cues. I wasn’t expecting them on “Taken” but I am glad they are here. Once the score settles on this mood I am charmed and I imagine a romantic story that I really want to hear. “Hotel Camelia” calms down the noise and presents a parallel reality where everything is fine. This is the sweetest intermezzo of this composition and a piece I will gladly return to. Immediately afterwards Liam Neeson finds his daughter in the middle of an auction and the conflict between his love for her and the hatred for her captures is mirrored in “The auction”, another poignant moment of this score.

The end of the score catches me unprepared. One of the most memorable action thrillers in the past few years gets a score that I will remember because of the quieter cues. This is a paradox I can live with.

Cue rating: 78 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 5 / 33

Album excellence: 14%


Permission to Go to Paris

Escape from St Clair

Hotel Camelia


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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