Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 20th, 2009
“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”
That pretty much sums things up quite nicely for you. The filmmakers must agree, because the scene figured prominently in their marketing campaign for the film. In the end it’s not really anything that we haven’t seen before with Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, or a handful of other actors in the role. What might make the whole experience somewhat unique is that Liam Neeson isn’t usually associated with this kind of a character. You usually find him more on the cerebral side of things. He plays the part well in spite of the handicap that he never really looks quite right for the part. Give the thespian credit for making the whole idea at least somewhat believable.
Bryan Mills (Neeson) is a divorced father who has had a rather stellar career in the CIA. He has given up his career to be near his daughter who now lives with her mother and a wealthy business tycoon her mother has now married. The relationship has been strained by the obvious commitments of his James Bond life. He is trying to make up for lost time, but can’t compete with the lavish stylings of her new life. When she wants to go to Europe with a friend, Bryan is worried. His job has made him a little paranoid, but he’ll tell you it’s not paranoia, but awareness. He reluctantly agrees to let her go, only to find his worries justified when Kim (Grace) is kidnapped by a sex slave operation while she’s actually talking to him on the phone. Now Bryan must rely on his contacts and skills to track down his daughter before the unimaginable happens. From here on out it’s a one man crusade that leaves bodies in its wake.
The film is pretty fast paced, which helps us to overlook the “been there done that” nature of the script. It allows us to go on this breakneck journey with Bryan without asking that many questions along the way. The problem is that it all appears too easy. I’m not talking about the physical part. Bryan jumps to some rather long conclusions and catches up with the gang in far too short an order. With Neeson, the advantage should be watching his mind work as well as his brutality. That’s the promise I expected from this kind of casting. Instead, much of that is quickly glazed over, and the movie falls into familiar patterns. I liked Bryan’s gang of buddies from the CIA and think the film might have made a better ride if these guys had come along for the party. The interaction would have filled a lot of the leaps in logic and provided us with more of an interactive nature to the whole exercise. Instead, a good cast is underutilized throughout, including a rather fine performance by Maggie Grace, even though her character is so shallow and manipulative that I found it very hard to care so much what happens to her. It’s only the pain caused to Neeson’s character that we really care about at all. The bad guys are terribly stereotypical here and thus are not near as effective as they could have been. French director Pierre Morel relies far too much on the emotional impact of the deed itself to carry the weight. Yes, we’re all shocked when we see a young girl taken to become the sex slave of an obese Middle Eastern Sheikh. But Morel stops there, not bothering to cast for solid performers and characters. Instead they’re all just canon fodder for Neeson’s personal justice. An interesting thrill ride, but nothing more.
Taken is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. The bit rate is strong and averages over 35 mbps. Black levels are the most impressive thing here. A lot of this film happens at night, and we’re treated to excellent shadow detail and depth. The contrast is a little weak, providing either a very dark or very light image throughout. The well lit daylight scenes are wonderful examples of color and sharpness. Detail is very good particularly in close-ups. Here you’ll also find very natural flesh tones as well. The print’s in very good condition, as one should expect. There’s no compression artifact that I could find.
The DTS-HD MA presentation is a solid one. You get an average of 4.0 mbps of uncompressed sound. The subs remain alive throughout, and the entire affair has a welcome full sound. The surrounds are often very aggressive, particularly during the many firefights. Dialog is always perfectly placed and constantly clear. The score amps it up a tad too much at times, but it’s all intended as an adrenaline rush ride.
There are 2 Audio Commentaries. The first features the French crew and is subtitled in English. I’ll be honest and tell you I didn’t get through much of this one. It’s tedious, and the extra subtitles are distracting. The second track is more interesting and features Robert Mark Kamen and is in English. These tracks are only available if you watch the unrated cut of the film.
This disc includes both the theatrical cut and an extended, unrated cut through the use of seamless branching. The unrated cut is only 3 minutes longer.
Black Ops Field Manual: This is a PiP option that brings up various facts and graphics as you watch the film. I really don’t like these things myself, but you might enjoy playing spy for a while.
Le Making Of: (18:24) (SD) Much of this feature is in French with English subs. Cast and crew offer a lot of synopsis here. When you combine that with the large number of film clips, over half of this you already know or have seen. The cast gets into a mutual admiration society. It’s pretty routine.
Avant Premiere: (4:48) (SD) The French premiere for the movie complete with fast edited shots of the event and red carpet interviews.
Inside Action – A Side By Side Comparison: Here you get to pick from 6 scenes and watch them along with the footage of the scene being shot.
This was the last film Neeson had completed before the tragic loss of his wife in a skiing accident. There are some ironies here that might be too hard to overlook as the feelings of character and actor eventually coincide. An odd observation, perhaps, but that is the only thing this film has going for it beyond the familiar. Neeson does an excellent job of showing emotion. It’s the kind of film that would make a fine rental, but not likely a good addition to the collection. It’s an amusement ride. “Don’t make a big deal out of this.”