"Taken" Extended Cut Blu-ray Review
May 19, 2009 by Zach Demeter
Although it looked like your average hostage/action film (think Ransom), Taken proved to audiences that it had a lot more action than drama. Despite critical reception near the 50/50 level, the film seemed to be just what American audiences wanted to see in theaters, as the film opened at #1 and went on to gross nearly $145 million domestically alone. For a thriller that packed little plot in with copious amounts of action, this is not bad at all. While it was certainly a surprise for the studio and all those involved for this film to gross as much as it did so quickly, it was an even bigger surprise for audiences that a largely mindless action thriller could be so damn entertaining.
We’ve Taken action to the extreme in this thrill-packed 2-Disc Extended Edition with hard-hitting added footage, plus in-depth documentaries, revealing featurettes and more! When his estranged teenage daughter (Maggie Grace) is kidnapped in Paris, a former spy (Liam Neeson) sets out to find her at any cost. Relying on his special skills, he tracks down the ruthless gang that abducted her and launches a one-man war to bring them to justice and rescue his daughter.
The trailers for Taken looked so dang good that I knew that the film had to have some disappointing angle thrown in to make it a cheesy, uninteresting outing. Thankfully when it came time for me to actually see the film for the first time, I found that the film had more action ala a Bourne flick than anything and, on top of that, the plot was a relatively simple affair about a man getting his kidnapped daughter back…and kicking all kinds of ass along the way.
While the plot was light, I honestly didn’t care; I had imagined that it’d take up some stupid government conspiracy thing midway through it and while it did to some extent, it never felt overly ridiculous. It was kept modestly low key and didn’t blow itself out of proportion or ever lose focus on Bryan Mill’s (Neeson) search for his daughter. Although the supporting cast ranged from Famke Janssen as Mill’s ex-wife to Maggie Grace as his daughter Kim, the entirety of the film was focused almost entirely on Liam Neeson, which added a whole other level of tension to the film. For one thing, we never knew what the fate of Kim would be (well, we all knew he’d rescue her, but still), as we saw only hints of her around Paris as Mill’s searched it. As he left paths of destruction and dead bodies, the film just grew that more and more exciting.
Granted, the film itself was nothing wholly original; it’s a pretty basic concept and it’s execution was nothing we hadn’t seen from better and stronger action films, but there’s just something about Taken that was just really easy to enjoy and get into. It created a villain that was nothing but evil and a hero that had to save his daughter from that evil. Basic concepts and you can draw whatever allegories you want to the film performing as well as it did due to the current state of the economy and people needing to feel “rescued” from evil, but all I know is I like me some action flicks that are mindless and violent at times and Taken filled that category nicely.
There were some issues I had with the film, not the least of which was Maggie Grace as Neeson’s daughter. Not that she didn’t do a good enough job, but here’s a twenty-five year old actress playing a sixteen year old…it just looked weird. When her age wasn’t a question, she was fine; but when she was forced to play that sixteen year old, jumping around and screaming with excitement about a pony and seeing her mother, it just came off as a little too…I don’t know, I can’t even describe it. I definitely noticed her childish and young movements as she jumped and moved a little bit more than adult would, but I couldn’t quite peg why it looked so strange, although it may have to do more now with the fact that most teenage girls likely possess a much smaller IQ level than Kim did in this film, as she wasn’t chewing gum or texting relentlessly.
So yeah, the film has a few flaws here and there, but for the most part it’s a mindless action thriller that has a solid amount of heart packed into it. As Neeson blasts his way through to the end of the film (which is relatively short, barely over an hour and a half) the love he feels for his daughter is felt and that final sequence on the boat is just…absolutely fantastic to watch in every way. Overall the film is definitely Recommended, the unrated version even moreso as the relatively tame PG-13 action is amped up a tiny bit higher with more hand-to-hand action and just a bit of more overall violence. Nothing that would really push it into R-rating territory when compared to the rest of the film, but enough that I guess they had to trim it out of the PG-13 cut.
Fox has released Taken on Blu-ray in a standard two-disc Elite Blu-ray case (second disc is digital copy only). Inside the case is the Blu-ray disc itself, which boasts the same art on it as the cover, as well as the digital copy that has a shot of Grace on it in blown-out white. Also included, of course, is the insert that allows you to redeem the digital copy. Menu is nicely animated and done, although that font is freaking tiny on it. I know I need an updated eyeglass prescription, but the font was hard to read even from ten feet away.
Video is encoded in AVC (@34mbps) and…quite honestly, I don’t know what I expected from Fox other than perfection, because that’s what we get here. The cityscape of Paris is absolutely fantastic to look at here and the nighttime action sequences are bathed in inky black as its pock marked with gun fire and other fire-tinted explosions. It’s a brilliant looking action film and definitely one that’s demo-worthy. Speaking of demo worthy, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is nothing short of a power house, with every bullet fired being felt in the chest and the films powerful score by Nathaniel Mechaly pounds through the surrounds and subwoofer. Any action scene in the film is worth demoing, but the confrontation on the boat in the end of the film is an absolute feast of the ears, with the myriad of surrounds being utilized as well as the subwoofer output. Wake the neighbors with this one—they won’t mind! Well, they won’t if you invite them over first, at least.
Extras for this release include:
Audio commentary with Director Pierre Morel, Writer Robert Mark Kamen, and Cinematographers Michel Abramowicz and Michel Julienne
Audio Commentary by Co-Screenwirter Robert Mark Kamen
Black Ops Field Manual - plays alongside the movie, keeping track of location, kills, etc.
Le Making-of Featurette (18:24, SD)
Avant Premiere (4:48, SD)
Inside Action: Side by Side Comparisons (11:05, 1080p)
Trailer for Notorious
The dual commentaries is a bit odd for a film of this caliber, but it considering how tame the remaining extras are, it’s a relief we get something more to listen to and check out. Both commentaries are on the Extended Cut only and are a relatively entertaining affair to listen to, although the complete lack of actor input is a bit of a downer. The Black Ops bit is a cheap little Blu-ray trick, but it’s interesting enough to flick on if you’re giving the commentary a listen, at least. The remaining extras are light and fluffy, with only the trailer for Notorious and the “Inside Action” bits being presented in high definition.
Overall this is a great little action flick and one that comes Recommended, especially this Blu-ray release with the absolutely stunning video and audio taking center stage from start to finish with this film.
Taken is now available on single and two disc DVD and two-disc Blu-ray.