This was a tremendously fun and suprisingly more thoughtful little actioner, and the compelling bitterness of Liam Neeson's lead character was the glue that made it so much fun. Some wonderfully choreographed darker physical humour too (I laughed out loud with joy several times throughout). TAKEN is a rather perfectly directed affair, with engaging casting choices, perfect shot choices and blocking, rich cinematography and the art direction especially is pleasingly expressive and dramatic, given the restrictions of the genre. In my opinion, one of the rare instances where a former cinematographer has actually excelled as a narrative director on a big budget movie. There are a few obligatory melodramatic Hollywood moments and a possibly disturbing (but probably unintentional) xenophobic undercurrent, but nothing that makes the experience any less entertaining.
Cinematography wise, I thought the texture of the look, soft (lens diffused at times), elegant with it's contrast (seemingly pushed at times), impressionistically grainy and with unconventional use of wide angles lenses at low angles (such as in the driving scenes) complimented the gorgeously colour controlled art direction to best effect. I did really appreciate alot of the more noirish lighting too, and the way harder key and back light was mixed with wrap around soft light, albeit without compromising contrast. The general controlled softness of the image and the gracefully curved nature of the wider lens selections might make this for me the closest that super35 has come to replicating the look of anamorphic wide open with mild lens diffusion (in my opinion). No doubt that opinion is going to prove controversial, as ever. Even the bad greenscreen composite plates did not upset me, because they had a charm that I associate with duff process work from the Hollywood Golden era.
The only downside to the look was during a later car chase scene that appeared to be shot on an HD camera, although it looked more like bad Z1 footage. I couldn't really appreciate what the filmmakers were aiming to achieve with this kind of unintentionally choppy mix media, and it had that unfortunate "COLLATERAL effect, particularly because of how noisy the image became, the blacks horribly milky and with loads of really amateurish looking vertical lens flares. The overall quality of the cinematography of the movie is so high and pleasing to the eye (well, mine at least!), that it makes this dodgier stuff stand out more. I cannot find anything online that suggests that this was HD, so I am just explaining what the images looked like to me. Please feel free to point, laugh and correct me if this later final car chase was infact shot on film but made to look like amateurish video (intentionally or not)!
I went into TAKEN second guessing my decision to pass on the DEATH RACE remake. I was of course very pleasantly suprised.
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