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Blu-ray Review: Taken

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The Movie
Ah! It’s good to get back to the basics, with Liam Neeson’s (Batman Begins) new thriller Taken. Sure we’ve heard the story before. Ex-military father’s daughter is kidnapped and sold into some kind of human trafficking ring, which then triggers those hidden “talents” the father acquired in his military days.

Taken is a perfect example of taking a simple story, sticking to the basics of what makes a good action movie, and going with that. First and foremost, they keep the camera still! Gee, what a novel concept.

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is an overprotective father. He’s ex-military who still does side security jobs with some of his military buddies. Right out of the gate we see that Bryan really knows how to handle himself, when there’s an altercation at a concert where he’s working a security detail.

Bryan is trying to connect with his precocious teenage daughter named Kim (Maggie Grace, Lost). Kim lives with her mother (Famke Janssen, X-men) and her obscenely rich step-father (Xander Berkeley, 24). Bryan is extremely protective of his daughter, which is why when Kim brings up her plans of traveling to Paris with her friend, he is apprehensive.

As you can tell from the trailer, Kim is kidnapped by faceless thugs who may or may not be running a human trafficking business. When learning that his daughter has been taken, Bryan kicks into gear and flies to Paris to find his daughter. What follows is a fast-paced action thriller that doesn’t disappoint.

Liam Neeson shows that, even at his age, he can still churn out some pretty amazing fight scenes. Mills stacks up the body count as fast as Jack Bauer or John McClane. He swiftly navigates his way through the underworld of Paris gathering information on his daughter’s whereabouts and dealing with bad guys who have plenty of weaponry, but apparently have never heard of ‘target practice.’

The action scenes are tense and well filmed. The camera stays still and doesn’t resort to one-second close-up cut scenes as did Quantum of Solace and Transporter 3. The camera backs up and gives us a full view of the action. It’s nice to see the actual choreography of a well thought out fight scene rather than a rapid succession of close-up thrusting fist and flailing leg shots.

Neeson’s Bryan Mills belongs to the same group of action heroes as  Jack Bauer. However, Grace’s Kim is the biggest downer of this film. Thankfully she’s not actually in it for very long. As a 26 year-old playing a 17 year-old, Maggie Grace lays the whiny, annoying teenager act on pretty thick. She doesn’t have a brain in her head, but I guess none of us did at that age. The difference is she doesn’t think she does, and as we all know even though we didn’t have brains at 17 we all thought we knew everything.

Taken is a very well put together action film. It has all the popcorn elements an action film needs: fight scenes, car chases, explosions, and machine guns that hit everything but their target. But, it’s nicely packed together into a taut little thriller. Even though we’ve heard the story before, there’s no need to try to reinvent the wheel when you have a decent story.

The Quality
Taken is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video transfer is well done, but suffers at times when it ventures into the murky, grainy depths. Some of the night scenes, like the car chase through the construction site, the details are sometimes blurred and the darkness takes over. While this isn’t constant throughout the whole movie, there are noticeable times where detail is hampered in the name of grain.

The daytime scenes, like the airport and birthday party scenes, are the clearest. When Neeson chases his first of many suspects up a traffic-jammed bridge, he’s moving fast, but as the camera tracks there are no hints of compression artifacts or enhancements. There is a lot of quick motion in this film, and it is handled with precision. Every punch and kick delivered by Neeson is visible and clear. Not just a blur on the screen; that’s for sure.

With the DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1, Taken is everything you’d expect from an action film on Blu-ray. There are plenty of gunfights and car chases to give your sound system the workout for which it was meant. The rear channels almost constantly produce some sort of action-oriented sound, whether it’s cars whizzing by behind you, or gun shots zipping passed the back of your head, you’ll feel enveloped in each and every scene. The subs work nice when engines rev up. The Audi Neeson commandeers towards the end of the movie roars, and rumbles the woofer.

The Extras
Why are movies like Taken, which was huge at the box office, given so little in the way of extras when they finally hit Blu-ray? I have my theories, one being that Fox is most likely going to release a Special Edition sometime in the near future hoping to milk each and every penny out of the fans. So, here they have really only gone with the bare minimum of features.

"Le Making Of" is standard fare when it comes to "making-of featurettes." It’s only 18 minutes long, so it’s basically a very glossy version of how the film came into being. A few interviews by Neeson, and some interesting information on the construction site scene (how it was filmed over two weeks in freezing cold weather) are about the only goodies you’ll find here.

"Avant Premiere" is just five minutes of footage from the movie's premiere. Nothing that you couldn’t see on a show like Entertainment Tonight. Hardly special feature worthy, and not worth your time.

You also get a digital copy of Taken for your laptop, iPod, etc. All features mentioned are in HD, but the digital copy is only SD quality.

Ending Thoughts
While the special features are pretty sparse, this movie is still worth picking up. For the most part it looks great on Blu-ray and the HD sound will blow you away. Some of the night scenes are a little obscured, but compared to SD it’s still worlds apart. Plus is an exciting, 24-esque action film that is sure to please even casual movie fans.

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