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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 Martin Liebman on May 13, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 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
Blu-ray fans should be taken by this release.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 13, 2009
I would sacrifice anything for her.
Taken delivers the goods that Action fans crave. It's really as simple as that. The film features everything, and more, that lesser, "play-it-safe" Action pictures like the Transporter films seem afraid of. While not a groundbreaking film by any means, Taken hearkens back to the glory days of the Action picture when movies like Die Hard and Commando took a no-holds-barred approach and wholly embraced the genre, the only difference with Taken being its slicker, more modern veneer. Despite the film's ending never really being in question or the fact that plenty of convenient plot contrivances and conveniences aid Bryan's (Liam Neeson, Batman Begins) quest to find his kidnapped daughter Kim (Maggie Grace, "Lost"), the film's relentless, uncompromising action, raw emotion, rapid-fire pace, and singular focus drive Taken to heights the Action genre rarely ascends to in the 21st century.
Former government operative Bryan Mills (Neeson), highly trained in the arts of survival, intelligence gathering, and self-defense, lives a solitary life after his divorce. Bryan obsesses over the well-being of his daughter, Kim (Grace), and enjoys only the company of his former team members. When Kim requests from her father permission to travel to France with a friend, Bryan eventually agrees -- and learns that her trip will take her all over the continent, a fact she failed to disclose. Bryan asks that his daughter check in with him everyday and keep him informed of her itinerary. When Kim arrives in France, she and her friend are greeted by a seemingly friendly stranger with whom they share a taxi to their temporary home. Later that day, while on the phone with her father, Kim witnesses her friend being kidnapped and she, too, is taken moments later, but not before Bryan is able to listen to the events unfold. When it is revealed that he has but 96 hours before his daughter will vanish forever, Bryan quickly travels to France to find his daughter -- and severely punish anyone involved with her kidnapping.
Aside from its incredible and nearly incessant action, a key factor in Taken's success stems from its wonderful set-up and ability to place viewers in the protagonist's shoes, painting him as a sympathetic character and thereby making his loss and subsequent quest to retrieve his daughter an undertaking that emotionally invests and, by the end, drains the audience. Neeson's depiction of a father who places his daughter above all else -- even when she has been "taken" from him through his divorce -- further enhances the drama, the dilemma, and the action by showing him to be not just a father in title only (much as Kim's stepfather seems to be) but one that would sacrifice everything for her and her well-being. He not only cares for her, but obsesses over her, not necessarily micro-managing her life but desperately in need of involvement to ensure her happiness and safety. To Bryan, fatherhood means not providing a luxurious estate and a horse as a birthday present, but opening his heart and wanting nothing more than to be a part of her life. Taken easily delivers a wonderful set-up that establishes its characters as well as most any Action movie ever has, lending an enormous amount of weight, urgency, and raw emotion to the blistering violence that follows.
Most importantly, however, Taken delivers intense action throughout the "unrated" cut of the film. Shootouts, car chases, foot chases, and hand-to-hand combat -- it's all here, expertly staged, appropriately violent, and a blast to watch and cheer on. Few films ever manage to paint the enemy as completely unscrupulous and worthy of their demise as Taken, and for every one that is shot, smashed, punched, sliced, or otherwise physically harmed, a sense of exhilaration and satisfaction emanates from the screen in the witness of their deaths, a feeling rarely captured on film, and most recently seen in Denzel Washington's Man on Fire. Thematically, Taken compares well to that Tony Scott film, but stylistically, they are two very separate entities that both manage to capture the imagination and get the blood pumping in different ways. Man on Fire takes on a gritty, grimy tone, reflected in both its main character and its visual appearance. Taken offers a sleeker, more refined look. Its lead character is not a drunkard but his approach to retrieving his daughter is no less intense than that seen in Man on Fire. Both films take a no-nonsense, unrelenting, sometimes grotesque, but incredibly gut-wrenching and, ultimately, wholly satisfying tone that placates both the need for well-scripted and thoughtful Drama and heart-pounding, well-staged, and violent Action.
Finally, Taken features a tour-de-force performance from Liam Neeson. The actor blends raw emotion with a stoicism that reflects his training. Though hurting on the inside, he remains steadfast, self-assured, level, and strong on the outside, never letting any emotion other than anger loose, and allowing nothing but his hardened and deadly skills to take on his enemies. The scene featuring his telephone conversation with his daughter, in the midst of the kidnapping, reflects his very essence. He remains quick on his feet, falling not apart but into his training, remaining in a state of calm while doing everything in his immediate power to glean any and all information about the perpetrators as possible. The scene plays out as believable in the context of the character's military background and unquestioned love and concern for his daughter, another reflection of the quality of the film's introductory scenes. The remainder of the cast delivers performances that don't match up to that turned in by Neeson, but they work as well as they need to in the context of the film. Perhaps the film's most pleasant surprise is Holly Valance, a young actress portraying a pop diva who makes appearances at both the beginning and end of the film.
Taken Blu-ray, Video Quality
20th Century Fox brings Taken to Blu-ray with a gorgeous 1080p, 2.34:1-framed transfer. The transfer offers a perfect film-like appearance, with strong, lifelike colors, tremendous depth, and extraordinary levels of natural detail. Exterior daytime shots look remarkable, and the darker sequences shine, too. No matter the material thrown its way, this high definition offering creates a wonderful cinematic atmosphere that recalls the best visual presentations as enjoyed in theaters. Blacks are inky and deep with no discernible loss of detail in corners and shadows. As for the detail, this transfer reveals just about everything there is to see. From the basics -- lines in faces and the textures in pavement and stone-laden walkways -- to the more mundane, like wrinkles in shirts, the transfer offers a continuous string of top-quality levels of detail. Flesh tones appear somewhat rosy through most of the film, however, and colors, while strong, appear slightly overly warm but never to an excessive degree. All in all, however, Taken makes for another wonderful Blu-ray transfer from Fox.
Taken Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As expected, the first-class visuals on this disc are complimented by another reference-grade DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack from Fox. Taken features audio that consistently emanates from every corner of the listening area, and with a crispness and clarity that matches the very best Blu-ray currently has to offer. Not only does information pour from every speaker, but it sounds incredibly lifelike throughout. An early segment at a pop concert reveals strong bass, even if the sound plays as somewhat muffled as it is heard in the background and at a distance from the primary action. The track also creates a fine blend of realistic ambience in many scenes. A restaurant scene in chapter four reveals an array of small nuances scattered about the soundstage that creates a pleasing, sonically inviting environment. Parts of the score take on a hard-rock feel, each of these devastating the primary front speakers, the sound aggressively spilling out with clarity and deep, chest-rattling bass. Gunshots also ring out with hard-hitting power, sounding clear and distinct one from the other, while explosions positively rock the listening area. Taken also delivers pitch-perfect dialogue reproduction. Once again, 20th Century Fox has delivered a power-packed soundtrack for a new release film. Taken may not set the bar higher than it already is, but it definitely reaches the current pinnacle of lossless audio presentations for home consumption.
Taken Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Taken arrives on Blu-ray with a fair selection of bonus materials, including both the 91-minute theatrical cut of the film and the 93-minute unrated cut. Up first are two commentary tracks, each available only on the unrated versions of the film. The first features Director Pierre Morel, Cinematographer Michel Abramowicz, and Michel Julienne. Presented in French with English subtitles, the participants discuss the visual style of the film and the visual contrast between the film's two halves in particular. Also discussed is the set-up for the story, the action, the performance and range required of actor Liam Neeson, and more. Track two features Writer Robert Mark Kamen. This is an English-language track where the Writer discusses his credentials and past films he's worked on and how it led up to his involvement in Taken. He moves on to speak of the script's origins and plotting, the dichotomy between Nesson's character's gentler side and violent side as seen in the film, and plenty more. Both tracks make for worthwhile listens that fans of the film will enjoy.
Black Ops Field Manual, another piece available only on the unrated version of the film, features picture-in-picture (Blu-ray profile 1.1) windows that allows viewers to follow the progression of the mission with a body count tracker, an injured persons tracker, a mission time remaining clock, and Bryan's distance traveled, displayed in both miles and kilometers. The track also provides pop-up trivia pertaining to a broad range of topics. Le Making Of (480p, 18:24) takes a rather average look into the making of the film, populated by behind-the-scenes footage, cast and crew interviews, and clips from the movie. Avant Premiere (1080p, 4:48) shows some footage from the film's premier, including brief interview clips with cast and crew. Inside Action: Side By Side Comparisons (1080p, 11:05) looks at several scenes, showcasing them as both raw footage from the set and the final version from the film. Also included is a 1080p trailer for Notorious. Finally, disc two of this set contains a digital copy of Taken. Played back on a second-generation iPod touch, this one looks and sounds better than most. With strong colors and detail but an average amount of blocking, particularly in the blacks, the video quality passes the test. Audio is superb for a digital copy, featuring strong sound effects, a good sense of space and direction in the track, and fine dialogue reproduction.
Taken Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Director Pierre Morel's Taken returns the Action picture to a level of excellence rarely seen in the genre. Violent and emotionally disturbing yet satisfying, the film features a simple story of both unconditional love and the lengths a man will go to save his most valuable possession. Though the film benefits from some cinematic contrivances and conveniences, neither the story nor the action suffer as a result. Taken should satisfy longtime Action fans much the same way Die Hard and Man on Fire did. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray presentation of Taken is a knockout. The studio rarely disappoints when it comes to delivering top-notch Blu-ray presentations of new-release films, and Taken is no exception. Featuring stellar picture and sound, along with a decent supplemental section, Taken should be a major hit on Blu-ray, and rightfully so. Highly recommended.
Taken: Other Editions
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Taken Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Taken 3: New Clip - December 31, 2014
The UK branch of Twentieth Century Fox has sent us a new clip with footage from Olivier Megaton's new film Taken 3 (2015), starring Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Dogray Scott, Sam Spruell, and Leland Orser. The film will open in cinemas ...
• Taken 3 New Featurette - December 18, 2014
The UK branch of Twentieth Century Fox has sent us a brand new featurette with footage from Olivier Megaton's new film Taken 3 (2015), starring Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Dogray Scott, Sam Spruell, and Leland Orser. The film will ...
• First Look at Taken 3 - September 30, 2014
Twentieth Century Fox has released an exclusive new trailer for Olivier Megaton's Taken 3 (2015), starring Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Dogray Scott, Sam Spruell, and Leland Orser. The film will open in theaters across the nation on ...
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