Taking Lives DVD Review

Written by Peter West

DVD released by Warner Brothers

Directed by D.J. Caruso
Written by Michael Pye (novel) and Jon Bokenkamp (screen story)
2004, Region 1 (NTSC), 103 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on August 17th, 2004

Angelina Jolie as Illeana
Ethan Hawke as Costa
Kiefer Sutherland as Hart
Gena Rowlands as Mrs. Asher
Olivier Martinez as Paquette
Tchéky Karyo as Leclair
Jean-Hugues Anglade as Duval
Paul Dano as Young Asher
Justin Chatwin as Matt Soulsby


Two young men meet on a bus and start a quick friendship. When the bus breaks down they rent a car and while changing a flat one of the young men pushes the other in front of another vehicle. Horribly injured but not dead, he is robbed of his identification and bludgeoned to death by his friend. This starts off years of identity switching by the youth, killing acquaintances and taking over their lives.

The scene switches to Québec. A body is found at a construction site with it's head crushed and hands missing. The local police call in a F.B.I. profiler Illeana (Angelina Jolie) to assist the investigation. Illeana's methods though are quite eccentric to the locals. When another killing occurs and a witness, Costa (Ethan Hawke) provides a detailed description to authorities, a cat and mouse game between the killer and police that leads back to the original killing years ago.

As the plot unfolds Illeana is unclear whether Costa is the killer or the killer's next victim? Directed by DJ Caruso ("The Shield", "Smallville"), Taking Lives is an above average thriller with plot twists that will make you feel like you're descending down a spiral staircase!


There's been some very good serial killer thrillers over the last decade, most notably Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. So there's always the comparisons that are going to be made every time a new one is released. While not in the same league of greatness as the two I just mentioned, Taking Lives is definitely an above average thriller. The combination of a solid cast with believable performances combined with a well written script separates Taking Lives from the run of the mill thrillers we're used to seeing the last few years.

Angelina Jolie's portrayal of Illeana, while like Jodie Foster's Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs, is a strong intelligent female agent with a purpose, she also combines more human elements and is emotionally vulnerable to the plight of Costa who looks to be the killer's next victim. Ethan Hawke performance though is very much like that of Edward Norton in Primal Fear. A victim for sure, but with his own demons. I purposely leave out referring to Keifer Sutherland's character Hart. Really to reference him might be a spoiler. Keifer has a small but very important role in the film, I just don't want to give anything away.

Overall Taking Lives is well worth checking out. If you're skeptical of purchasing, you should at least give it a rental. Jolie's fans will not be disappointed with the steamy sex scene in the film. Hawke though is the real star of the film. You'll will feel this is one of his better roles in recent films!

Video and Audio:

Presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Taking Lives (as most modern big budget films should be) has a absolutely superb picture quality to it. Considering his experience has mostly been in television, director Caruso has made his first feature film a pleasure to watch.

A tremendous score by Philip Glass presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 enhances the excitement of the film tremendously. Notable for his scoring of horror films (Suspiria, The Church, Candyman), Glass brings a horror genre feel to the music in the film.

Special Features:

While there is not a running commentary track on the film, there are several documentaries that provide a inside look at the making of the film. There's a gag reel of outakes and, of course, a theatrical trailer for the film.


Movie: 4 Stars
Video: 4.5 Stars
Audio: 4.5 Stars
Features: 3.5 Stars

4 Stars


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