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A former government operative comes out of retirement and uses his extensive training to rescue his daughter from a slave trade operation.
For more about Taken and the Taken Blu-ray release, see Taken Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 12, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky
Director: Pierre Morel
» See full cast & crew
Taken Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 12, 2009
A straightforward thriller with plenty of flashy action, French director Pierre Morel's Taken (2008) will likely appeal to those who found the Bourne films to be of exceptional value. Scripted by Robert Mark Kamen and Luc Besson, the film does not impress with originality, but it does not disappoint either. Its storyline is certainly quite colorful and for the most part infused with enough grittiness that will please action-junkies looking for something fresh. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox-UK.
An ex-CIA agent (Liam Neeson, Rob Roy) has moved to LA in order to be closer to his 17-year old daughter (Maggie Grace, The Fog). After years of dangerous missions and little time for his family, Mills is determined to be the kind of father he never was. Unfortunately for him, his daughter is now living with her mom (Famke Janssen, Golden Eye) and her ridiculously-rich husband (Xander Berkeley, Timecode).
After her birthday party, Mill's daughter asks if she could go to Paris with her best friend. Mills isn't thrilled with the idea because he knows that if anything was to happen to her he won't be around to help. So, he tells his daughter to forget about the trip. His ex-wife, however, is disappointed with his decision and tells Mills to begin treating their daughter as an adult.
As expected, Mills changes his mind. His daughter and her friend get on the plane to Paris and, again, as expected, end up in a lot of trouble. They are abducted by a group of Albanian human traffickers and prepped to be sold on the black market. However, before she is captured by the Albanians, Mills' daughter manages to make a phone call and tell Daddy what has happened. Mills immediately flies to Paris, gets his old buddies from the CIA to do their magic and help him find out more about the Albanians, and initiates a one-man hunt-show that culminates with a happy ending.
Luc Besson's touch in Taken is easy to recognize. The key elements the film uses to enthrall his audience – no-frills action, fancy camerawork, and a main protagonist equipped with near superhuman skills – are the same ones that earned the Frenchman plenty of accolades for his involvement with Taxi (1998), Banlieue 13 (2004), and Danny the Dog (2005). Unsurprisingly, Taken follows a fairly predictable route.
To give their film an edge over similar action-productions, Pierre Morel and team have brought to Taken Liam Neeson. And, indeed, for the most part, the charismatic Irishman adds plenty of credibility to the storyline with his uncompromising style. He plays the role of a retired CIA agent to perfection, though, admittedly, the film's script isn't always too kind to him.
Still, even with Liam Neeson on board, Taken has little to offer outside of the action genre. The film is cluttered with protracted chase and action scenes that after awhile become rather impossible to tolerate. Furthermore, the ex-CIA agent's ability to deal with his opponents in a near comical fashion will likely rub a lot of viewers, who find greater entertainment in substance rather than in style, the wrong way.
Technically, however, Taken achieves a lot more than what we have seen in recent months coming our way from Hollywood producers. Cinematographer Michel Abramowicz and film editor Frédéric Thoraval have made sure that the film maintains a steady tempo that makes its script's episodic structure look elegant. With other words, if you are willing to ignore the fact that Mills is conveniently left without a respectable opponent and given a green light to do what in real life would look flat out bizarre, then Taken is certainly a film you would enjoy.
Taken Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.34:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC, and granted a 1080p transfer Pierre Morel's Taken arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox-UK.
It looks like Fox's UK transfer for Taken is identical to the French transfer EuropaCorp used for their Blu-ray release. Contrast on the UK disc, however, appears to have been slightly boosted and as a result some of the daylight scenes (the airport action scenes) look a little rough. Furthermore, during these specific scenes edge-enhancement becomes a bit problematic. On a positive side, clarity remains consistently pleasing.
The film's color-scheme will likely raise a few eyebrows. The manner in which Taken is shot certainly allows for a lot of inconsistencies in terms of color saturation, and I wasn't too impressed with some of the more obvious manipulations that I saw. For example, there are plenty of scenes in Taken where the flesh tones look surprisingly unnatural. They aren't overly disturbing once you get used to the film's tiptoeing between raw and polished imagery, but I have to assume that some of you will notice what I described above. This being said, the actual print for Taken is in top-notch condition – I did not detect any debris, scratches, or dirt whatsoever. (Note: This disc is encoded for Regions B and C. Therefore, if you do not have a Region-Free or Region B/C PS3 or SA, you will not be able to access its content).
Taken Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Taken arrives with the following audio options: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Castellan DTS 5.1, German DTS 5.1, Italian DTS 5.1, and Russian DTS 5.1.
As expected, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track delivers a near reference quality audio treatment. Throughout Taken, the rear channels are extremely active, the bass notably potent, and the dialog very easy to follow. Furthermore, the dynamic amplitude is nothing short of spectacular. A lot of the chase scenes for example would certainly test the muscles of your audio system (tire screeching, head-on collisions, etc). The action scenes are also quite impressive, though I tend to believe that balance is at times a bit problematic. There are some very heavy audio enhancements that could annoy some of you. Still, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track certainly captures the spirit of the film quite well. For the record, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or hissings.
This Blu-ray disc also offers a very unusual English Descriptive 5.1 audio track. I personally have never encountered one of these before, so I am unsure if this is a new feature which the studios will be promoting, or simply an exotic addition to Taken. There are probably people that would appreciate a narrator explaining to them what is happening on the screen (we are not talking about a dub here), but I simply do not know why one would not want to listen to the original audio track.
This being said, there is a very small portion of Taken where Liam Neeson confronts a gang of Albanian human traffickers where French and Albanian are spoken but English subtitles aren't offered. From what I understand, some viewers are convinced that English subtitles should have been included. Well, this could very well be the case, but I would not be surprised if this is how Taken was meant to be seen by English-speaking audiences - unsubbed. On the other hand, I am fairly certain that this UK Blu-ray release is an exact replica of the French Blu-ray release, so 20th Century Fox might have just dropped the ball on the English subtitles. For the record, the Blu-ray disc also offers optional English HOH, Castellan, German, Italian and Russian subtitles.
Taken Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are a number of very interesting extras on this Blu-ray disc. Real Time Mission Intelligence is a picture-in-picture feature with a geographical locator and a self-updating mission dashboard that will play in conjunction with the film. Basically, the feature allows you to watch Taken and keep track of injured and killed gangsters, the remaining time (Liam Neeson has approximately 96 hours before his daughter is transported out of Paris), and the distance traveled by the ex-CIA agent. Occasionally, you also get to see large interactive maps of the locations where the action takes place (Los Angeles, Paris, etc). Next is a Making Of featurette where cast and crew members share their thoughts on Taken while we get to see plenty of raw footage from the film. Avant Premiere offers footage from the film's premiere in Paris where Liam Neeson and Pierre Morel quickly address their collaboration. Inside Action: Side By Side Comparisons shows how six key scenes from the film were shot. Finally, there are direct links to Fox-UK and Fox International's web sites.
Taken Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Taken is a straightforward action film that will appeal only to those who like their cinema fast and loud. If you do not fall into the above category, there is a very good chance that you wouldn't appreciate what director Pierre Morel and his close friends Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen have cooked up. The Blu-ray disc here in reviewed, courtesy of 20th Century Fox-UK, is of good quality. There are a few issues that I have addressed in the technical section of this review, but nothing really that should prevent you from owning the film. Recommended.
Taken: Other Editions
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Taken Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Taken 2 New Featurette - September 13, 2012
The UK branch of 20th Century Fox has sent us a new featrette for Olivier Megaton's highly anticipated action thriller Taken 2 (2012). The film will open in theaters across the United Kingdom on October 4th.
Taken Blu-ray Screenshots
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