In retrospect, there is another comparison that can be made. Does this not seem an awful lot like an old Steven Seagal-style plot? He very easily could have played the Neeson role. However, as we all know, there is a big difference in acting ability between Steven Seagal and Liam Neeson. Where an '80s-era Seagal would have made this a fun movie, Liam Neeson makes this an excellent one. They bring very different intensities to the screen, but Neeson combines that intensity with a much broader depth of emotion, and it is the emotion that truly sells the role.
As the film begins, we meet Bryan Mills (Neeson), a "sort of retired" CIA man who has seen action in various parts of the world. We learn that his job has kept him away from his family, which he ultimately lost to the ridiculously rich Stuart (Xander Berkeley). He has taken his leave from the CIA at the expense of the work he loves and, one would presume, a more comfortable home life. He did it so he could be closer to his now 17-year-old daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace).
Conflict begins when Kim wants to go overseas with a girlfriend where they will be overseen by the friend's cousins. Kim's mother, Leonore (Famke Janssen), is all set to let her go, but Bryan knows better. His job has opened up his eyes to the dangers that exist all around. He eventually relents, and she is off to Paris.
No sooner has she arrived than she and her friend are targeted, marked, and taken. Fortunately, she is not grabbed so fast that she isn't able to get a frantic call off to her father. Now, we all know what that means. Enter the speech from the trailer — it is time to employ his skills. Bryan becomes a man possessed of one goal, to get his daughter back at all costs.
Bryan employs his CIA contacts for some information and off he goes. Much like Terrence Stamp in The Limey, no one will get in his way or prevent him from achieving his goal. No, this is not terribly realistic, nor is the ease with which Bryan is able to exact some of his vengeance. So what? It is exciting and Liam Neeson makes you believe he can do this. The man carries so much emotional weight and brings the project much more credibility than it probably deserves.