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Taken (2008)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/12/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/21/2009

Think of your favorite meal. (Don't think about it too hard, as you may get hungry and wander away from this review.) Your favorite meal is most likely something that you've had many times, but you still enjoy it. Despite the fact that you've had it on numerous occasions over the years, as long as it's made to your liking, you are happy. Movies can be the same way. We can see a movie which isn't necessarily original, but if it's well-made, it can be something which stands out. A good filmmaker can take ingredients which seem old-hat and arrange them in a way which will make us forget, at least for a moment, that we've seen them before. Taken is the epitome of this idea.

Taken introduces us to Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), a retired CIA operative who has left the business in order to try and repair his relationship with his teenaged daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Kim lives with her mother (and Bryan's ex-wife), Lenore (Famke Janssen), and her stepfather, Stuart (Xander Berkeley), who is very rich and spoils the girl. When Kim asks if she can go to Paris for a tour of museums (she'll need Bryan's permission, as she's a minor), Bryan is reluctant. Having traveled the world, he knows what a dangerous place it can be. However, he finally gives in, as long as Kim follows a series of ground rules. When Kim and her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy), arrive in Paris, they meet a nice man named Peter (Nicolas Giraud), who shares a cab with them. Little do they know that this meeting has targeted them for a kidnapping. Bryan calls Kim to ensure that she's arrived safely and just as he does so, she and Amanda are abducted. Bryan immediately flies to Paris, determined to find Kim. It will take all of his training and skills to locate the girl, and no one in the City of Lights is safe from his wrath.

Taken comes from French movie mogul Luc Besson, who has made a reputation out of Directing and Producing fast and lean action films. Here, he takes the Producer reins, leaving the directing to Pierre Morel (District B13) and the film was co-written by Robert Mark Kamen (The Transporter films, The Fifth Element). Taken fits very well into Besson's stable of work and of the films that I've seen by his team, it's one of the best.

The movie's greatest asset is that it's concise and to the point. The 91-minute running time (93 minutes on the unrated cut) gives the movie just enough time to introduce the characters, set up the plot, have Bryan beat up everyone in sight, and then wrap things up. And in a film like this, that is really all that you need. The central idea is very simple and we learn all that we need to know about the kidnappers and their scheme. We learn that Bryan is an ex-Black Ops spy and that he's a very skilled and dangerous man. We learn that Bryan will do anything for his daughter. After that, the movie is off and running.

As one would expect, the stunt work here is very well done and we get a nice mixture of car chases, gun fights, and hand-to-hand combat. Having been a cinematographer on some of Besson's other projects, Morel knows how to shoot an action scene and he never lets things get too gratuitous. Liam Neeson does a great job here, and he's excellent at balancing the Bryan who won't hesitate to kill everyone in the room, the Bryan who can fake his way into any situation, and Bryan the loving father. Outside of his role in Batman Begins, Neeson hasn't done a movie like this in a while and he brings a certain amount of class to this action film.

If I have one complaint about Taken, it's that I often felt that I'd seen it all before. I knew the films' main premise from the trailer, and outside of that, there aren't many twists and turns here. Once Bryan arrives in Paris, one can easily predict what his steps will be. Let's put it this way, if he found Kim immediately, then it wouldn't be much of a movie, so his detective work offers moments which we've seen in other movies. There is one shocking scene in the third act, but that's about it. Also, I couldn't help but wonder about a movie which was made by Frenchmen which is basically telling the viewer, "Don't visit France." Still, the movie's energy and sheer drive keep it going and make Taken worth seeing.

Taken promises to find you and kill you on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. However, there is a slight sheen of grain on the image throughout. The colors are good and the picture is never overly dark or bright. The image shows very nice depth and the actors in the foreground are generally separate from the background, and the level of detail is OK. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Fox Blu-ray audio tracks typically don't disappoint and this is a great one. The gunfire sound effects have been jacked up to a ridiculous place and these sounds reverberate their the subwoofer. The stereo effects are very good and show great stereo separation. The surround sound effects are nearly constant and the audio from the rear speakers places us in the action scenes.

The Taken Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Pierre Morel, Cinematographer Michel Abramowicz, and Michel Julienne, which is subtitled. The unrated version carries an AUDIO COMMENTARY frmo Writer Robert Mark Kamen. The unrated version can also be viewed with "Black Ops Field Manual", which offers pop-up maps and information. "Le Making Of" (18 minutes) contains comments from Neeson and Model, who discuss their approach to the film. We get an OK amount of behind-the-scenes footage, but this is made of mostly of interviews. "Avant Premiere" (5 minutes) shows us footage from the February, 2008 premeire of the film. (It's so sad to see Natasha Richardson with Neeson.) "Inside Action: Side by Side Comparisons" (11 minutes) shows us how six of the film's key action scenes were done, by offering on-set footage and a comparison between the on-set action and the finished film.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long