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Taking Lives

Blu Ray

  • Score
    from 2 reviewers
    Review Date:
  • Taking Lives falls short of Se7en's standards, with a lackluster Blu-ray release.

    Taking Lives Blu-ray Front Cover

    Disc Release Date:

  • Video
  • While the Blu-ray of Taking Lives features strong colors and clarity, it's marred by technical flaws like macroblocking and artificial sharpening, diminishing its potential despite being an upgrade from the DVD.

  • Audio
  • Warner's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track shines in Taking Lives, offering crisp dialogue, remarkable directionality, and solid low-end in a lively soundscape, making it the release's highlight despite light rear speaker use.

  • Extra
  • Despite its seemingly rich special features, Taking Lives disappoints with only a basic gag reel, trailer, and a superficial behind-the-scenes featurette."

  • Movie
  • Taking Lives is a derivative thriller lacking originality, trapped in clichés and predictability, failing to captivate despite a solid cast and uninspired direction that mimics Se7en without capturing its depth.

    Video: 57

    The Blu-ray presentation of "Taking Lives," despite being a relatively recent release at only five years old, unfortunately falls short of expectations due to a myriad of technical issues that mar its 1080p/VC-1 transfer. Viewers will find themselves distracted by macroblocking that frequently disrupts the picture, alongside unsightly banding. Moreover, the image integrity takes a hit from what seems to be an excessive use of artificial sharpening, particularly noticeable in scenes with stark backgrounds such as the interrogation room where Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke's characters first interact. Here, viewers are pulled away from the immersive experience as heavy artifacts, aliasing on object edges, and minor contrast fluctuations become evident, although, it's worth noting the absence of detail-smearing noise reduction is a silver lining, preserving the film's moderate grain and some well-defined textures.

    On a more positive note, director D.J. Caruso's color palette retains its strength and stability throughout the film, with black levels generally being well resolved save for a few brief episodes of problematic nighttime shadows. The overall visual clarity presented is appreciably better than the standard DVD version, offering impressive delineation, acceptable levels of fine detail, and a convincing sense of depth whether in light or dark scenes. This suggests that with some additional restoration work, the video quality could have been significantly improved.

    Despite these issues, the Blu-ray transfer could be considered slightly above average when taking into account the strong palette and resolved black levels. It shines in comparison to the DVD version in terms of clarity and depth. However, it's evident that Warner may have prioritized cost-saving measures over delivering a top-notch visual experience, likely banking on a lower price point to attract fans. This strategy may overlook the encoding flaws but does not fully mask the potential for what could have been a far superior presentation.

    Audio: 62

    Warner Bros' audio presentation of "Taking Lives" on Blu Ray is a testament to the studio's dedication to aural fidelity, boasting a robust Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that clearly outshines many elements of this release. As the centerpiece of the disc's technical offerings, the audio mix delivers dialogue that is crisp, well-balanced, and seamlessly integrated into a diverse and dynamic soundscape. The track excels in its handling of directionality, making action sequences — including an explosive car chase, a gritty apartment skirmish, and a tense climax in a decrepit farmhouse — stand out with remarkable clarity and impact. This precision ensures that viewers are not just watching but experiencing these pivotal moments alongside the characters.

    The low-frequency effects underscore the tension with an aggression and depth that adds gravity to the film’s darker moments, without overwhelming the dialogue or finer sound details. Though the film features many quiet, introspective scenes that don't call for bombastic rear speaker use, the sound design smartly leverages these quieter moments to flesh out the film’s environments, from eerily silent crime scenes to the nuanced ambience of indoor settings. The subtlety in these soundscapes enriches the viewing experience by providing a realistic backdrop against which the drama unfolds.

    While the use of rear speakers may be conservative, it by no means detracts from an overall immersive auditory experience. The audio track does an admirable job at highlighting the film's sonic intricacies, from the palpable tension of whispered dialogues to the jarring dissonance of sudden violence, ensuring a level of engagement that will satisfy audiophiles and movie lovers alike. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track on "Taking Lives" Blu Ray not only complements the visual experience but elevates it, making it a noteworthy addition for collectors and fans of high-quality movie presentations.

    Extra: 40

    Despite its promising array of special features, the extra presentation on the "Taking Lives" Blu-ray falls notably short of expectations. The content, primarily consisting of a brief and somewhat haphazardly placed gag reel, along with a standard theatrical trailer and a disappointingly superficial behind-the-scenes featurette, leaves much to be desired. The featurette itself, though ambitiously split into four segments—The Art of Collaboration, Profiling a Director, Bodies of Evidence, and Puzzle Within a Puzzle—offers only a cursory glance into the film's production process, missing an opportunity to delve deeper into its creative undertakings. This collection lacks the depth and richness one might anticipate, given the fascinating subject matter and potential for in-depth exploration of the film’s thematic intricacies and production challenges.

    Extras included in this disc:

    • Gag Reel: A short collection of outtakes.
    • Theatrical Trailer: Preview of the film.
    • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette: Broken down into four parts; The Art of Collaboration, Profiling a Director, Bodies of Evidence, and Puzzle Within a Puzzle.

    Movie: 50

    Taking Lives," a film that seeks to immerse its audience into the murky depths of a serial killer's psyche, regrettably surfaces as a less-than-original thriller that strains under the weight of its own ambition. Directed by D.J. Caruso, whose visual palette borrows heavily from the grim and gritty aesthetics of predecessors like "Se7en," the movie introduces the chameleon-like villain Martin Asher (initially portrayed by Paul Dano) against the backdrop of a narrative that promises intrigue but ultimately fails to deliver a unique or compelling experience. The plot, loosely adapted from Michael Pye’s 1999 novel, sees FBI profiler Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie) in a cat-and-mouse game with Asher, weaving through a series of contrived twists and procedural clichés that fall short of rejuvenating the worn-out serial killer genre.

    The casting offers brief moments of potential, with Jolie delivering a nuanced performance amidst a sea of predictability and underdeveloped character dynamics. Yet, even these glimpses of craftsmanship are undermined by Jon Bokenkamp's script, which stumbles over its own tangled web of overwrought dialogue and foreseeable plot points. The film makes an early reveal of the killer’s methods and motives, aspiring to build suspense but instead leading the audience into a waiting game as characters play catch-up—a stark contrast to the masterful narrative ambiguity seen in films it tries to emulate.

    Despite Caruso's effort to pay homage to iconic thrillers through his cinematography and setting, "Taking Lives" struggles to find its own identity among the throng of serial killer narratives saturating the market. Attempts to delve deep into the antagonist's depraved mind are lost in translation, devolving into mere parlor tricks rather than offering a fresh perspective on the genre. Ultimately, the film stands as a testament to missed opportunities, embodying a familiar procedural with fleeting moments that hint at what could have been a more impactful cinematic exploration.

    Total: 52

    The Blu-ray release of "Taking Lives," despite ambitions to match the chilling atmosphere and intricate storytelling of classics like Se7en, unfortunately, does not rise to the challenge. While director D.J. Caruso makes a valiant effort, the film itself struggles with originality, opting for a narrative and character development that often feels too derivative and lackluster. This is mirrored in the technical presentation of the Blu-ray edition, which, although it offers a robust TrueHD audio experience that commendably captures the film's auditory nuances, falls short in other key areas.

    Visually, the Blu-ray transfer of "Taking Lives" is a mixed bag. It seems that in some scenes, details are presented with clarity and depth, making for an immersive viewing experience. However, this consistency isn't maintained throughout the film, leading to periods where the imagery feels somewhat washed out and lacking in vibrancy. This inconsistency does a disservice to the overall cinematic experience. Further compounding the issue is the disappointing range of supplemental material available on this edition. The extras are sparse, offering little in the way of behind-the-scenes insight or meaningful additions that could have enriched the viewer's understanding of the film's creative process or narrative complexities.

    In conclusion, while "Taking Lives" aspires to carve out a niche within the thriller genre, both its storytelling and the Blu-ray presentation leave much to be desired. The TrueHD audio track stands out as a notable highlight, offering a semblance of redemption for this release. However, the inconsistent video quality and lackluster extras make this Blu-ray edition difficult to recommend unequivocally. Those intrigued by the premise might find it worth exploring at a bargain price, but it’s advisable to moderate expectations and perhaps rent before deciding to add it to one's collection.