Taken: Extended Cut (Blu-ray)
Directed by Pierre Morel
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 91/93 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: May 12, 2009
Review Date: May 18, 2009
If Jason Bourne lives to middle age and has a daughter who grows into a late teen and is subsequently kidnapped, he might have an adventure retrieving her that’s something akin to Pierre Morel’s Taken. A fast paced, stop-for-nothing thriller, Taken is a definite rush, a hit of cinematic speed that almost never pauses to catch its breath. Too breakneck in pace to worry about plot abnormalities, Taken is an action movie lover’s nirvana.
Not happy about his seventeen year old daughter Kim’s (Maggie Grace) abrupt decision to jet to Europe on a fun-filled odyssey following U2 around the continent, ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is horrified to hear his daughter’s abduction over the telephone hours upon her arrival in Paris. Using his extensive know-how in undercover operations and calling in favors from a host of operatives on both sides of the Atlantic, Bryan makes his way through the Albanian mob in a desperate search-and-destroy mission to find his kidnapped child.
With something of the same desperate tone as Roman Polanski’s Frantic but with the film incorporating the super spy skills of a Jason Bourne or James Bond (without the quips and elaborate overproduced stunts), Taken is a stripped-for-action thriller that takes no prisoners. Some may find director Pierre Morel’s pacing and razor-edged cutting almost cartoonish in its frantic, pile-driving style (akin to The Transporter on which he served as director of photography), but others (including me) will find it edge-of-your-seat riveting. The closest thing to a Bond sequence is a race through a rock quarry though there are street pursuits, too, and there are some torture scenes also as the overwrought Mills repeatedly comes up empty with each new place of discovery. Through it all, the spare dialog moments come only when physical violence hasn’t done its job. But this isn’t much a film for talk; it’s an action-packed jolt meant to bring an adrenaline rush to those who want to buckle up and hang on.
Liam Neeson is perfectly cast as the serious-minded father who’s slowly losing his family and is willing to go to any lengths to retain the piece of it he still can claim. Maggie Grace plays the spoiled daughter a bit younger than the seventeen years suggested in the script (the actress herself is older making her performance doubly problematic), and Framke Janssen as the too-accommodating mother convinces in a smaller role. Olivier Rabourdin as a former French intelligence operative who has moved up to a desk job has a couple of very entertaining sequences with Neeson as the two acquaintances sour toward one another trying to outflank the other without ceding control.
The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is exemplary in the transfer, and color saturation and depth are wonderfully delivered. Blacks are excellently presented with outstanding shadow detail. Contrast is solid though flesh tones have a tendency of varying from warmly lifelike to a bit too hot. There are no digital artifacts to spoil the wonderfully dimensional image offered here. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is everything one would expect from a modern action thriller. A wide soundstage immerses the viewer in sound, and discreet audio from all available channels keeps the viewer’s heart thumping on cue, accentuated by sporadic bursts of deep bass from the LFE channel. One’s only complaint is that the film is so brief by modern action movie standards that it’s frustrating that such expert sound design is over so quickly.
The Blu-ray offers two audio commentaries. The first features director Pierre Morel, cinematographer Michel Abramowicz, and stunt supervisor Michel Julienne speaking in French (translated in italicized subtitles) about the movie. Screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen speaks sporadically on the other commentary track about the original script and the changes necessitated during the filming. It is possible to hear one commentary while reading the subtitles of the other one at the same time.
“Black OPS Field Manual” is a BonusView PIP feature which offers pop-up facts during the picture and a drop-down meter that keeps track of how many people have been killed and wounded and how many kilometers have been traveled during the course of the film.
The Blu-ray disc offers the choice of the original 91-minute theatrical cut of the movie or the 93 ½-minute unrated extended cut. The commentaries are only available with the extended cut.
“Le Making of” is an 18 ½-minute documentary on the history of the film’s production featuring director Pierre Morel, producer Luc Besson, and stars Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace in separate interviews. It’s in 480p.
“Avant Premiere” is a brief 4 ¾-minute montage of clips from the Paris premiere of the film with the director and star taking the stage after the screening. It’s in 480p.
“Inside Action” features six scenes from the movie which can be watched in comparison split-screen showing the actual shooting of the sequence and the finished product as it appears in the movie. The six scenes can be viewed individually or in one 11-minte chunk. It’s in 480p.
The disc offers a 1080p trailer of Notorious. The trailer for Taken is not on the disc.
Disc two in the set is the digital copy of the movie with instructions for installation on both Mac and PC devices.
Taken is an exhilarating popcorn thrill ride. Barely an hour and a half long, its breakneck pacing and suspenseful cat-and-mouse strategizing makes it an easy recommend for action fans.