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One of the most suspenseful and spine tingling <a href=";v=56">movies</a> to come along in a while, Taking Lives has been given an unrated release by Warner Brothers. Join me as I take a look at the release.

The film opens approximately twenty years in the past, as a teenage Martin Asher has decided to leave <a href=";v=56">home</a>. Making his way across the country, he befriends a fellow bus passenger and then the two set off in a <a href=";v=56">car</a> Martin has purchased. When they develop a flat tire the passenger starts to fix it, but Martin flings him into the path of an oncoming van, killing him. Martin than takes his wallet, possessions, and lastly, his identity. As the <a href=";v=56">movie</a> progresses, we learn that Martin so hates who he is that he spends his <a href=";v=56">time</a> assuming the identities of <a href=";v=56">people</a> he has killed; "taking their lives" as it were. Martin's mother spots her son on a ferry in Canada and warns the police about her very deranged and dangerous son.

Taking Lives: Unrated Director's Cut
Illeana Scott is a criminal profiler working for the FBI. When a brutal murder is committed in Montreal, the head of the local police force calls her in to assist with the case. One of the other detectives in the precinct doesn't appreciate the outside help, and takes every opportunity to let her know. Illeana's investigations lead her to believe that Martin Asher is the killer. Soon after she arrives, James Costa, a local <a href=";v=56">art</a> gallery owner, witnesses a murder that Asher is believed to have committed. He draws a sketch of the man he saw, and it is circulated throughout the province. Costa and Scott develop a relationship over the course of the investigation, during which Costa agrees to be used as ‘bait’ to try and catch Asher. When this fails, the police next stake out Costa's <a href=";v=56">art</a> gallery, hoping that Asher will show up. He does, but manages to elude the police. Shortly thereafter, a final showdown occurs between Asher and Costa, one that seemingly results in the death of Asher. One would think this is the end of the film, however, it is here that the twists and turns of the film really begin.

Martin's mother comes to the hospital to identify her son's remains. Events start to spiral out of control and she soon finds herself dead, murdered in the same <a href=";v=56">fashion</a> as Martin had been committing the earlier killings. When they fail to capture the individual who killed her they begin a manhunt, which ultimately is unsuccessful. Fast forward seven months and we see Scott now living in a rural town, alone in the countryside. Due to her actions during and her inability to resolve the Asher case, she has been let go from the FBI. She is stalked by the true killer, and in one more final showdown with a bizarre twist the resolution to all of the murders takes place.

The acting in this film is top notch. Angelina Jolie (Scott) performs her role in fine <a href=";v=56">fashion</a>. When we first see her, she is lying in an open grave trying to get clues to the identity of the murderer. She displays moments of both tough aggressiveness and tender innocence well, and in the end shows that her character has the fortitude to do what is necessary to get what she wants. In contrast, Ethan Hawke (Costa) uses his portrayal to give Costa a sense of worldliness tinged with just enough nervousness due to the murder he witnessed. When he agrees to be the bait, there is a real feeling of fear.

Taking Lives: Unrated Director's Cut
Although only in the film briefly, Kiefer Sutherland continues to show his uncanny ability to play very terrify and slightly unbalanced characters. Much like his character from Phone Booth, Sutherland can be at times very subtle in his menacing portrayals, or he can be screaming “in your face” at times. Either way is very effective for him. With the exception of Gena Rowlands (Mrs. Asher), the rest of the cast is made up of French actors, enhancing the feel of the Montreal setting. Olivier Martinez as Paquette brings an excellent portrayal of resentment towards his role, both towards the inclusion of Jolie in the investigation and the difficulty with resolving the case. Finally, Tcheky Karyo’s stint as Leclair is a fine depiction of a man who is searching for anything that will help him to stop this maniac and restore a semblance of order to the streets of Montreal.

D.J. Caruso’s direction of Jon Bokenkamp’s screenplay (based on the novel by Michael Pye) is a taut thriller that seems to at times come out of nowhere. At the end of the film you may find yourself wanting to watch it again just to make sure you caught all of the little nuances and enjoyed every twist and turn. It is a fine work in a <a href=";v=56">time</a> where really good thrillers seem to be lacking.

Complete with a 2:35:1 anamorphic transfer, the <a href=";v=56">video</a> on the set is adequate, but not anything overwhelming. Much of the action takes place at night, and the black levels are fine, with little bleeding or washing out of the surrounding areas. Flesh tones are good, but there really are not a lot of differing colours in the film. Awash in earth tones (from the opening scene where Martin Asher is introduced to the final scenes on the rural farm), there are not bright bursting shots with a lot of colour. Browns, blacks, blues and muted greens are the major colour schemes, helping to add to the overall feeling of death and suspense which permeate the film. Finally, the physical transfer of the picture is done well, with little or no dust or film artefacts evident.

Taking Lives: Unrated Director's Cut
As with the <a href=";v=56">video</a>, the <a href=";v=56">audio</a> portion of the DVD is fine but nothing to write <a href=";v=56">home</a> about. It carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track, which is given a slight, but not overbearing workout. Much of the film is dialogue driven, so the instances where one can truly feel immersed in the soundtrack are few and far between. However, all of dialogue is very clear and distinct, and the times when the soundtrack is allowed to utilise the 5.1 to its fullest (such as the scene where Costa is having a gallery showing) it comes across in good <a href=";v=56">fashion</a>. There are no hisses or pops located anywhere on the soundtrack.

Here is where I feel the set misses the mark. Once again there is no commentary. For those of you who have read any of my reviews, you know that I find the exclusion of an <a href=";v=56">audio</a> commentary to be inexcusable in today’s DVD world. I find it almost lazy that one would not be included. Yet, here again is another fine film which offers no insight by the director and/or cast about the making of the film, save for a few short featurettes.

The featurettes can either be viewed continuously as one, or can be seen separately as four shorter featurettes. Comprising of about twenty-two minutes total, they offer small glimpses into how the creative team was comprised, and how they came together to make the film. They also <a href=";v=56">cover</a> D.J. Caruso’s plan for bringing Bokenkamp’s script to the screen, how the different actors felt about working with one another and Caruso. Finally there’s also a look at the process editor Anne Coates used to give the picture a heightened sense of suspense and thrills (including the use of extreme close-ups throughout). While somewhat enlightening, overall the brevity of the featurettes leaves the viewer wanting more.

The final two extras include a brief gag reel (watch Olivier Martinez’s face when one of the ‘corpses’ comes alive!), and the theatrical trailer from the film. In the end, I can’t help but feel that there is a ‘Special Edition’ coming down the road that would include much more thorough features on the making of the film and the elusive commentary that surely must be out there somewhere.

Taking Lives: Unrated Director's Cut
I was really taken in by this film. It offers a very good story and fine acting. The suspense was top notch and there were times when I sat open mouthed as events transpired on the screen. There have not been too many films that I can honestly say have given me this type of experience. Having said that, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the DVD of the film. It misses the mark in so many ways (mostly the extras). I wanted to enjoy the overall DVD experience much more than I actually did. Taking Lives is a fine film, but if you buy the disc for all of the goodies that normally come along with them, you may find yourself feeling somewhat dissatisfied.