You know I really think 2015 is going to be one helluva year for films, especially when we are going to look back on it at the end of year. But I’m not sure January is what we are going to remember. I wanted to start off the year in style so I actually have been to see 4 films including this one. Three in the cinema and one which has had its initial DVD release. I’ve seen Birdman, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death and Time of Eve the Movie. If you are hoping for all 4 reviews then I’m afraid I am going to have to disappoint you, because I decided I can only review 1 film at the beginning of the year and Taken 3 had the most to prove out of any of these films, but I will give my brief thoughts on them.
Birdman despite being predicted to win an Oscar and has been nominated for best picture at the BAFTA’S, I only felt was OK, I liked it but I failed to love it and I think it’s down to the fact that whilst acted brilliantly it’s style overcomes it and as a result you feel like you’re watching more of an exercise in Movie making rather than an actual story with characters.
The Woman in Black 2 adds to the list of ‘awful’ horror movies which come out in the opening weekend of January. Granted it’s not as bad as previous years like The Devil Inside and Texas Chainsaw 3D, but all the creepy atmosphere of the first film was building to is largely gone in favour of a ton of ‘jump scares’ and often they would spoil the mood of the scene. I would give that one an avoid.
Finally, Time of Eve the Movie, directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura ,the same man who directed Patema Inverted, got a release a week later than expected, so it’s now a 2015 movie. This film was actually surprisingly good in a lot ways that I wasn’t expecting, yes it never quite reaches the ground breaking Sci Fi plot that Patema Inverted was giving us, but it still takes a relatively overdone plot around artificial intelligence and actually adds some new ideas to it and the ending indicates that there will be more films in this series. The only negative I have for it is the fact that it’s clearly a condensing of a series, but at least this one actually works as a Movie. My advice though if you are going to pick one up, go for the ultimate edition Blu Ray copy because the films also contains the directors two extra short films which have not been released in the UK. Though be warned there is no English dub for one of the shorts and if you are planning to see this film you need to select the English dub in the opening menu, it’s not automatic. With that being said, enough dawdling, lets move on to the main feature.
I picked Taken 3 for various reasons. For starters I haven’t actually reviewed a sequel since my first review, which was Sin City 2. This film also interests me a bit more than most of the films coming out around this time, because this is a film that could easily go either way, due to the fact that a lot of critics were suggesting the Taken franchise had run out of steam on its previous movie. Now in preparation for this review, I did watch both Taken and Taken 2 in the days leading up to seeing the film, and my thought haven’t really changed on either film. I thought Taken was a surprisingly decent action film that felt like it blended the sort of Schwarzenegger style movies from the eighties were more grittier real world tone. The second film unfortunately is a serious down grade that trades that gritty real world tone for idiotic villains and a plot that doesn’t really make that much sense. My hope was though, that, Taken 3 was going to bring the franchise back to its roots, the trailer seems to indicate so. However I also was going in with some some real potential pessimism, I always thought this film should have been a stand alone and never should have become a franchise, but there is every chance this series can end on a high.
Taken 3’s plot takes place, I’m guessing, a year after Taken 2, we are never given an exact time frame. I will give the film’s plot credit that it doesn’t exactly do a re-tread of the first Taken movie, like the second film did, centering around Liam Neeson’s character Bryan Mills being on the run from the law after supposedly murdering his ex-wife, once again briefly played by Famke Janssen. The difference this time round is mainly the fact that with Bryan being the hunted means we also are given some of the story perspective from the main detective in charge played by Forrest Whittaker. I will say, his parts are the best portion of the film, as you do believe, unlike most of the characters in this franchise, Forrest Whittaker’s detective Dotzler is potentially a match for Bryan Mills. He is a very methodical man who will get to the bottom of a case and he is not easily fooled by tactics that fooled the villains in previous Taken films. However this plot, I actually think, on a lot of levels, is slightly worse than Taken 2. While a large amount of the plot is different, a lot of the differences aren’t for the better. The leaps in logic they expect you to take in this film are astounding. I obviously won’t ruin them for you, but you will see the twists coming and you will be wondering by the end of the film how Bryan Mills hasn’t been arrested several times over. Also, for the end of a film franchise, and this is supposed to be the last Movie, there is no real sense of finality to this film, it doesn’t feel like this is the end of the story by the end of the film. If anything you could easily see them going further with a Taken 4 (not that I actually want there to be a Taken 4).
It’s also amazing how much this film feels like a rip off of The Fugitive even down to the casting of Forrest Whittaker and it can be really distracting
A lot of the problems of this film come from the start of the film. A lot of the characters feel like they have gone back a step since the end of the second movie particularly Bryan and Lenore. All that reconciliation which happened in Taken 2 is brushed aside, they are not much closer in the beginning of this film than they were at the beginning of the second film. Also, Stuart St John, Lenore’s current husband has been re-cast for this film. Xander Berkely is still not willing to appear in this franchise but the writers clearly wanted to do something with his character so Dougray Scott has been bought in to replace him. I will get into their performances later, but lets just say with this character the writers do go down a few routes that were hinted at during the first film but I think the expansions of the character in this film go a little too far.
This film, once again was written by Luc Besson who last year flopped with one of my least favourite films of the year being Lucy. By now if you have read my top ten worst films of 2014 and my review of Lucy, you all know my opinion of that Movie. I think this film whilst it could have bough back his career, it has failed to do so. I think the guy should really take a break from writing. I think he is a talented writer and could have a good script in him, but he is not bringing it to full effect and it is very evident in the way this plot just expects you to go along with some of the logic that allows this film to be both an action film and yet feel like it is based in the real world and unfortunately it doesn’t quite work in this case.
Overall the plot is ok when you are watching it, but when you stop and think about it, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (it’s what I like to call Dark Knight Rises Syndrome). The stuff with Forrest Whittaker is good, but it’s not enough to save this film and in fact its actually undone by the late middle of the film, he disappears for a long time, also while the villains may be an up-grade from the second film, they are still not much better although I will say, on a lot of levels, I enjoyed Sam Spruell’s ‘Oleg’. Now let’s move on to the acting!
I will give credit to the actors in this film, as they all give decent performances, with not the best material and you even get a sense from watching them that they know that this not the best material. Liam Neeson obviously is still great as Bryan Mills and I do think this is going to be one of the definitive characters we think of with this actor, whether that is for the better or the worse. Famke Jannsen once again is pretty good as Lenore, but she is not in it that long so you can’t take that much from her performance. Maggie Grace still does alright as Kim, although I do think her role has been expanded a bit too much. Sam Spruell plays the villain Malankov, but his performance seems a bit over the top at times, especially considering he is supposed to be a very realistic Russian gangster. As I mentioned before Forrest Whittaker is the best actor in the film and steals half of the limelight off Liam Neeson and I would like to see him and Liam team up again in another film as they do interact with each other very well. The biggest point in the acting to talk about though is the re-casting of Dougray Scott as Lenore’s current husband Stuart, and he is probably the weakest actor in the film, he is not that convincing on a lot of levels and you will guess the plot twists coming up ahead based on his performance, and yes there are a few plot twists in this film, but they are not that good and you will probably will see them coming. I certainly know that I did! Other roles have been expanded such as Liam Neeson’s friends from the first film and whilst the actors again do a pretty good job, they are not given enough time to do much, so as a result I am not going to go into too much details about their performances, only to say, they are pretty decent. Overall a decently acted movie but I wouldn’t say any of these performances were great, pur se and you really get a sense that the actors were delivering essentially a good performance, but were holding back on giving a great one!
The only major thing now to talk about is the film’s presentation. I went to see this film in IMAX to see if it was worth the full effect. I’m telling you right now, ‘it isn’t’!! I don’t know why Luc Besson insists on that his films are in IMAX when clearly they are not suited for that format, you really are not getting much out of the IMAX experience out of this film and you are better off going for a regular screening, the only thing which is really improved is probably the sound effects. That being said, this is an action film, so this film should do those sequences pretty well. This film does not!! The action is a lot worse than it was in Taken 2. Some of the fight sequences towards the end are decently shot but the beginning and middle are so terribly done. We are never on shot for more than two seconds before it sporadically cuts to another camera and the camera is too close and shakey that can’t tell what’s going on. It all just looks horrible, and like it’s trying to cover up the shortcomings of the lowered budget for this film. This is especially noted in the car chases, which were the worst part of the film, it has all the problem of the fight scenes but it’s exacerbated here even further. In fact there is even one shot where one of the cars is supposed to go off a cliff and explode but it is clear there is no one in the car based on the way it is shot when it goes off the cliff! That’s just not bad editing, it’s lazy editing! The one thing they had to get right and it’s done poorly here. At least Taken 2, for all it’s faults did have some decent action sequences (not many). This film does not! It really pains me to say that as I really enjoy the action sequences in the first film.
I am not going to go into a lot of other details like the soundtrack and the cinematography because they are both done terribly and in truth I don’t remember that much about them.
So, my major gripes with this film have been made clear, but I do have at least, some positives on this film. It’s decently acted and the story has some bright ideas when it’s not ripping off the fugitive, it just never fully executes them. I think this film could have been a lot worse than it was, but with the product that we have now, it’s not one that I would really recommend, except to huge Taken fans. The tag line of Taken 3 is “it ends here”, well thank god it ends here because it is very clear from Taken 2 and Taken 3, that this film should never have been a franchise. This whole thing kind of feels like a studio mandate, because the studio were insisting that this had to be a trilogy. I wouldn’t be surprised if I found that out. But as it stands Taken 3 is a pretty disappointing start to 2015 for me. It may have more of an identity than it predecessor, but it’s worse than its predecessor purely on the fact its action sequences are a lot worse and it’s plot has a lot more contrivances that it is very difficult to get past. I really wanted Taken 3 to bring the franchise back, but as it stands, it doesn’t work. This is once again a film I would recommend only renting when it comes out on DVD. If you must see it in cinemas, don’t bother with IMAX, it’s a waste of £4.00.
So what do you think? Was this film worth the price of admission and I got it wrong, or do you agree that this was a poor way to end a film franchise that never should have been one. If you would like to discuss this or any of the other films I have mentioned, please leave something in the comments section. We accept any opinions on the site and you do not need an account or to be from any particular area. We just need your opinions. If you want to send your own reviews just attach your name in a word document and send it in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and remember, make sure it is all in lower case or I won’t receive the email.
For more details on the criteria once again go to my Big Eyes Review.
We are going to be taking a short break before the next review. I know I promised more frequent reviews but I do have a few scheduled jobs for my work and will have to take a week off every so often. I will do one as soon as I get back. I promise that all future reviews will be coming out a lot more frequently.
Come back on 30th January where I will be reviewing Giovanni’s Island which is at long last getting its release to a general audience with it’s DVD and Blu Ray release on 12th January
And if you get a bit of time this week check out one of our user’s book reviews of “I’ll tell you why I can’t wear those clothes” in the news section of our site. The review is a very good read.
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