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Taken (2009) Print E-mail
Friday, 15 May 2009
Image"Taken" is your typical kidnapping case without the ransom part.  In fact when you think about it, it does have some originality, but the film falls short of a true suspense/thriller.  I am being critical of the film, but it did do fairly well at the box office (nearly $145 million).  In addition, typical theatergoers seem to give it good reviews.  There are just a few things that keep me from rating the film just that tiny bit higher.

In "Taken," Kim (Maggie Grace) goes to Paris with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy).  Shortly after arrival, they are kidnapped by a group of unknown men.  This is where things in the film get a little more interesting.  It just so happens that Kim was on the phone with her father, Bryan (Liam Neeson), who just so happens to be an ex-CIA agent, specializing in prevention.

Her father guides her through what to do and informs her than she will be taken.  When the men pick up his daughter's cell phone, he gives one of the most powerful intimidation speeches, finishing with the tagline for the film, "I Will Find You and I Will Kill You."

Bryan informs his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen) that she has been taken in Paris.  While she freaks out he is gathering intel.  Using some voice recordings from the kidnapping, his friends in the CIA identify the kidnappers as a group of Albanians that run a prostitution ring.  They kidnap foreign tourists and sell them to the highest bidder.  Bryan has 96 hours before it is virtually impossible to find his daughter.

From the moment that he arrives in Paris it is almost a non-stop chase.  Using the memory card in her cell phone, Bryan is able to get a facial recognition of the man that befriended the girls at the airport.  He is the low man on the totem pole that reports the living quarters of the tourists once they arrive via taxi.  Bryan intercepts him trying to take advantage of another tourist and demonstrates some impressive martial arts skills.  Unfortunately, the suspect is able to run, but not far before he gets creamed by a vehicle.

Meanwhile, Bryan had met with his longtime friend in Paris, who is now an employee for the police in internal security.  Of course, we know from the start that he is somehow involved with the prostitution ring.  Once Bryan makes his first action move, his friend tries to get him out of the country.  Unfortunately for him, Bryan is way too smart for him.

Bryan follows a series of clues and forced, or tortured, information.  Each time he gathers new intel he reaches someone higher on the prostitution food chain.  After he finds Amanda dead in one of the main Albanian houses, Bryan turns hardcore and will stop at nothing to find his daughter. My biggest problem with the film is the ending.  We know it is coming.  It is just that type of movie.  However, the ending is very uninspiring.  The father, you risked life and limb to get his daughter back gets nothing but a little gratitude.  The daughter still goes off and lives with her jerk mother and stepfather.  In addition, Bryan just seems get away with everything that he did in Paris.  All the killing and destruction and he just flies back to Los Angeles free and clear.

The video transfer is presented in MPEG-4 AVC and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  The video is good, but it is a bit inconsistent.  In particular, the film grain fluctuates between the day sequences and the dark sequences.  Obviously the film stock needs to change during production to accommodate for low-light scenes, but it is a little jarring going back and forth.  Shadow delineation also suffers in the dark sequences.  Details and textures are lost in the shadows.  There is some minor crushing in the blacks but not too distracting.  Details and textures in non-dark sequences are very good.  The contrast seems to have been boosted causing some feathering around bright spots.  Fleshtones are accurate, appearing pale due to the Parisian atmosphere.  Colors are also accurate for the most part, wavering during the dark sequences.

The audio is presented in a DTS-HD 5.1 format.  The track is excellent, providing an immersive feeling.  Ambience, music and effects are all terrifically placed in the rear channels.  The rear channels do lack discreet sound effects, but the front/rear panning and divergence is exceptional.  The real star of the audio track is the LFE channel.  It is heart pounding for nearly the entire film.  Bass signals reach the lower extremities of the subwoofer range.  The dialogue is strong for the most part, but overall it is mixed a bit on the low side.  Frequency response and dynamic range are both excellent.

"Taken" comes in a two-disc Blu-ray package.  The first disc is the Blu-ray disc and contains both the theatrical release of the film as well as the extended, unrated cut of the film.  The extended cut is about a whole three minutes longer than the original.  In fact, you probably won't even notice the additional minutes.

For special features, the Blu-ray disc contains an audio commentary track on the extended cut only, with the director, cinematographer and the car stunt supervisor.  The biggest problem with this track is that it is all in French so you have to read subtitles for the entire film.  There is some good information presented, but it is quite difficult to follow along.  There is a second audio commentary track with co-screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen.  This is a terrific track that helps clarify some of the holes in the story.  I recommend this track if you are disturbed by some of the storylines.  "Le Making-Of" is a typical making-of featurette.  "Avant Premiere" is a brief section with footage from the film's premiere.  "Inside Action Side-by-Side Comparisons" is a section of storyboards.  "Black Ops Field Manual" is available on the extended cut of the film and allows you to view information such as the body count in a separate window during film playback.

The second disc in the package is a Digital Copy of the film.

"Taken" is not perfect, but it has its moments.  I enjoyed the chase, but am still disappointed by the ending of the film.  The video transfer is good, but a bit rough.  The audio track is excellent and may contain a couple demo moments.  This disc and film is definitely worth a chance.

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