Blu-Ray Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
    BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***** (out of 5 stars)

    Liam Neeson as BRYAN MILLS
    Maggie Grace as KIM
    Katie Cassidy as AMANDA
    Famke Janssen as LENORE
    Xander Berkeley as STUART

    Rated PG-13 & Unrated
    Studio: 20th Century Fox

    Directed by: Pierre Morel

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Ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) has changed careers to be closer to his seventeen-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). Although he’s ridiculously overprotective, he allows Kim and her mother to talk him into letter her take a vacation to Europe with her friend. Once she arrives in Paris, Kim and her friend are targeted by an international sex slavery ring, kidnapping them right from their apartment. This sends Bryan on the warpath, using his many resources to uncover the people behind the human trafficking ring and make them pay.

“Taken” was one of the pleasant surprises of the January movie season, which is usually filled with awful films that couldn’t make it anywhere else on the release schedule. The movie had been out for a while in Europe and Australia, but when it landed here in the states, it was devoured by moviegoing audiences.

Anyone who is a parent will relate to the rage and unrelenting vengeance that the character of Bryan feels. This is what makes the unsettling things he does (which includes torture, murder and other acts of violence) seem completely justified. In some ways, this is a bit of a cheap shot. After all, the tugging at the parental heart strings isn’t exactly fair... unless you’re dealing with a shoot-‘em-up action movie like this one.

Liam Neeson is fantastic as the badass ex-spy going after the people who took his daughter. My hope is that this movie will do for him what “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” failed to do. After “Taken,” maybe the rest of the world will see him as formidable of an action star as they have seen folks like Jason Statham. Neeson deserves more movies like this.

Although it has the look of a huge budgeted film, “Taken” is relatively modest, and at times those tells show in the film. As an action film, it uses smaller cameras to shoot, and also relies on video technology, which can break down in some scenes and give it a BBC look rather than something for the major cinematic markets.

And while Liam Neeson does a fine job acting, along with Famke Janssen as Kim’s mother an Xander Berkeley as her step-father, the weak link in the acting chain is Maggie Grace. The actress is significantly older than the under-18 character traveling abroad, and Grace lowballs her behavior, making her seem more like a 13-year-old girl than someone on the verge of adulthood.

“Taken” is given a fine Blu-Ray release, which actually ramps up its value as a film from just a basic action release to a classy set. First, both the theatrical cut and the extended cut are available on both discs, although there’s not an awful lot of difference to the releases. Having seen the original in the theaters, nothing jumped out at me when I watched the extended cut, aside from a little more violence and blood.

The extended cut does come with an audio commentary with director Pierre Morel, cinematographer Michel Abramowicz and car stunt supervisor Michel Julienne. This commentary track gives a more in-depth look at the intricacies of production on a film of this nature, beyond the simple director reflections. An additional commentary by co-screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen is also available.

There are two featurettes: “Le Making-of” and “Avant Premiere,” both of which are bi-lingual in French and English. The first provides a decent look at the production while the second gives a glossy look at the premiere of the film in France.

Blu-Ray features include several “Inside Action” side-by-side comparisons of the storyboards to the finished product. However, the best feature on the disc is the Blu-Ray enable “Black Ops Field Manual,” which plays within the feature and highlights locations where the film takes place, weapon information and wound delivery in victims. It also keeps a running tally of how many people are injured, how many are killed and how far Bryan has traveled to save his daughter.

Finally, there is a second disc for Digital Copy purposes, for the film to be downloaded onto portable media players in the extended cut only.

Action film fanatics.

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