Taken (2009) - 2-Disc Extended Cut [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Action / Drama / Thriller
Fox || Unrated - 93 minutes - $39.99 || May 12, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-05-18


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Pierre Morel
Writer(s): Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen
Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky, Katie Cassidy, Holly Valance, Famke Janssen


Theatrical Release Date: January 30, 2009


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • 2 Feature Commentaries
  • Black Ops Manual
  • 2 Featurettes
  • Side by Side Scene Comparisons
  • Digital Copy


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.40)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

Note: This review is for the unrated version only and having not seen the PG-13 theatrical version, I cannot tell you the differences, but you can find a breakdown at Movie-Censorship.com.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold. Apparently somebody forgot to tell Bryan Mills.

The $220 million international hit (especially in the States where making a surprising $145m) Taken stars Liam Neeson as a retired operative with some “special select skills.” He’s out of the business and living in L.A. so he can reconnect with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). She and her mother (Famke Janssen) live on a lush estate with a multi-millionaire (Xander Berkeley). Bryan is still learning how to once again be a father buying her a karaoke machine because, when Kim was 12, she wanted to be a singer. Sadly, he is outshined when her stepfather gets her a horse. To pay the rent, Bryan and some former colleagues make some money taking odd jobs, the one shown protecting a pop star.

Bryan was none too pleased when he found out Kim wanted to spend the summer in Paris for an “educational experience” (later discovered it was to follow U2’s European tour), but he reluctantly agrees and signs off on the trip. Right off the flight to Paris, Kim and best friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) are befriended by a Frenchman who offers to split a cab ride to their apartment – which of course the occupants are away. When Kim calls her father to let him know she got there fine, she witnesses Amanda getting kidnapped, she hides under the bed but they get to her and the race is on as Bryan uses his skills to find the people responsible and get his daughter back!

Bryan discovers that Kim and Amanda had been kidnapped by a gang of Albanian sex traders with a heinous M.O.: they dope up the girls to get them hooked on drugs and then send them to the streets for prostitution or somehow worse yet, sell them to the highest bidder.

His search takes him through the streets of Paris where even an old contact, now sitting behind a desk, can’t help. As the body count rises, Bryan grabs the attention of the Paris police but even they cannot stop him. He will get his daughter back come hell or high water.

Ass kicking, neck breaking and gunfire ensue.

Simply put, Taken is one of the best “revenge” films I have ever seen. Liam Neeson is nothing short of amazing in a role that required an amount of believability and did he ever deliver, which shouldn’t be surprising. What is surprising is the fact that an actor who has been in his share of high profile movies (Star Wars Episode I, Batman Begins) is able to carry the workload almost single handedly. The man is so good, he’d give Chuck Norris a run for his money and Charles Bronson would quiver in fear, pissing his pants.

There’s not much more to the story. There isn’t some multi-layered plotline. No government cover-ups, no sub-plotline showing Kim’s plight. Nope, it is 70-minutes (after we’ve done with setting up the father-daughter relationship) of Liam Neeson kicking ass and taking names... if he hadn’t killed them already.

Effectively directed by Pierre Morel, Taken is a first-rate highly entertaining thrill ride that sustains what could’ve been a tiresome story. Morel is making only his second directorial debut (and first as far as I know to be shown in the States) after working as the cinematographer on various projects including The Transporter and War. The film was written by Robert Mark Kamen (Transporter 1-3 and The Fifth Element) and Luc Besson (Transporter, La Femme Nikita).

Many times movies get hyped, some by the critics other by even the general movie-going audiences. However, I can say without reservation that Taken lives up to it and is definitely worth seeing. It’s not a complicated movie; instead it’s an intense film with a fantastic performance by Liam Neeson. You will not be sorry to give this a try.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

There are two feature commentaries, the first with director Pierre Morel, cinematographer Michel Abramowicz and car stunt supervisor Michel Julienne in French with English subtitles and the second with co-screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen.

Black Ops Field Manual (Profile 1.1/2.0) is a geographical PiP feature where you can follow Bryan’s progress to find his daughter (# killed, # injured, time remaining). This also serves as a trivia track about topics like black ops agents and what exactly they do. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

Le Making of Featurette (18:24; HD) goes behind-the-scenes of the making-of Taken with footage and interviews with the cast (including Liam Neeson) and crew (director Pierre Morel). It’s not a terribly originally ‘making-of’ featurette but decent enough.

Avant Premiere (4:48) – This is just some footage at the premiere for Taken where members of the cast and crew are interviewed by various news outlets about the movie.

Inside Action: Side by Side Comparisons (11:05; HD) – We get to check out comparisons for six scenes between the behind-the-scenes and the final shots.

The second disc contains the digital copy of the extended cut only.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Taken is presented in 1080p high-definition (AVC MPEG-4 video codec) in its original 2.40 aspect ratio (on a 50GB Blu-ray disc). Although it’s not a great looking picture, it is crisp and clear and colors look to be about right. I didn’t notice any sort of imperfections (dust, scratches) or even noise during some of the darker scenes either. Speaking of the dark scenes, the black levels were quite good and even throughout. However, it is a gritty movie so you will notice some graininess during certain scenes per the director’s vision, so this may not be as visually arresting compared with other Blu-rays, but it’s certainly still pretty good.

The Blu-ray comes with a hard-hitting DTS-HD 5.1 lossless audio track. Ever wanted to know the impact of a gunshot? You will hear and feel it coming from every channel and your subwoofer, hell your neighbors will hear it! The dialogue is very clear coming via the center channel while sound effects and explosions are very immersive.



.::OVERALL::.

Taken is one hell of a thrill ride. The movie might have a too simplistic plot for some and yes, you will need to suspend your disbelief but if you like the idea of The Transporter meets Man on Fire, you will not be disappointed. Even though Liam Neeson is a veteran actor, he still manages to surprise me and this role just took him to a different level, not a new level, just different.

As for the Blu-ray, probably because filmmakers’ didn’t expect this to become the hit it did, especially in the States we don’t exactly get quality featurettes. Even with two commentaries, I am disappointed that there wasn’t more. How about one on how the film was edited down or deleted scenes? In any case, the movie is too damn good not to get so even with less than stellar bonus materials, it is still worth the price.