I knew very little about Taken when I first watched it in the theater back in early February. Me and my wife thought it was about as close to the perfect pure action film as they come. Little did I know that there was an even bloodier, more violent version of the film, that was enjoyed by overseas audiences, before it was ever released in the U.S. Well now I know the real deal.
The recent Blu-ray release of Taken, directed by Luc Besson protege Pierre Morel – who also helmed the Besson-produced cult urban French martial arts flick Banlieue 13 – has two versions of the film to choose from – bloody (which I originally watched) and bloodier (which I choose to watch from this Blu-ray release).
After being an absentee father in the life of his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) thanks in large part to his career in the clandestine services, Bryan Mills (effectively played by Liam Neeson) decides to try and rekindle their long-suffering relationship, starting with attending her high school graduation. After taking a job as a freelance security expert at the urging of some of his former espionage associates, his contact with Kim is reduced to that of an over-protective father at odds with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), and her new husband Stuart (Xander Berkeley).
Bryan sees hope however, after being invited to lunch with Kim, but soon realizes her true intentions – she needs his parental consent, in the form of his signature, on a document, in order to go on a trip to Europe with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy). After reluctantly signing the paperwork, on condition that she keep in constant contact with him, the two girls are in Europe for just a few hours, when thugs break into their hotel and abduct them, with the intent to sell them into the black market slave trade.
To her credit, Bryan’s daughter Kim stays on the phone with her father during the abduction, and gives him the first clue he needs to begin tracking her down. He immediately flies to Paris and begins the process of hunting down the men who’ve taken his daughter.
Neeson’s confidence and matter-of-fact attitude, easily draws you into his dilemma, as he kicks the shit out of anything that stands in the way of finding his daughter. The script is smartly written, as to make the entire scenario seem plausible, as you can’t help but cheer for this guy who has the same problems and frailties as the average person, and who just wants to get his only child back safely.
Taken, along with the Bourne Trilogy, take their place among the best action films to hit theaters in recent years, with realistic martial arts, richly layered storylines and believable villains.
The Taken Extended Cut Blu-ray is presented in widescreen format (2.40:01) with English 5.1 Dolby Digital Sound and Spanish/French Dolby Surround with English, French and Spanish subtitles. The transfer is excellent, and the disc is filled with entertaining special features, including the aforementioned Extended Cut of the film, which is seamlessly branched with an audio commentary by director Pierre Morel, cinematographer Michel Abramowicz and stunt supervisor Michel Julienne. There is a second commentary with writer Robert Mark Kamen, a frequent collaborator of Besson, having worked with him on The Transporter series, Kiss of the Dragon and The Fifth Element. These are very informative and thorough commentaries that discuss the genesis of the story and the filming experience. There is also a Le Making Of featurette that goes behind the scenes and dissects the action sequences, as well as how the movie was cast. It features interviews with the director, Neeson, and other cast and crew. Inside Action is a featurette with Side by Side Comparisons of the scenes Peter Dies, Bryan Escapes Construction Site, Good Luck, The Interrogation, Bryan at Saint Clair’s and the Boat Fight. The Black OPS Field Manual is also a commentary series, featuring a window within the movie explaining some of the technologies used in the film. Finally, there’s Avant Premiere, which shows crew and audience reactions at Taken’s film premiere. Disc two features a Digital Copy of Taken for PDA devices.
Director: Pierre Morel
Writers: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Cast: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Radivoje Bukvic, Mathieu Busson, Holly Valance, Katie Cassidy, Xander Berkeley, Nicolas Giraud, Mattie Grace, Jon Gries
Original U.S. Release Date: January 30, 2009
Blu-ray Release Date: May 12, 2009