Movie Review

Taking Lives

He would kill to be you.
Taking Lives Movie Poster

US Release Date: 03-19-2004

Directed by: D.J. Caruso


  • Angelina Jolie
  • Illeana
  • Ethan Hawke
  • Costa
  • Kiefer Sutherland
  • Hart
  • Gena Rowlands
  • Mrs. Asher
  • Olivier Martinez
  • Paquette
  • Tchéky Karyo
  • Leclair
  • Jean-Hugues Anglade
  • Duval
  • Paul Dano
  • Young Asher
Average Stars:
Reviewed on: March 19th, 2004
Anglina Jolie in Taking Lives.

Anglina Jolie in Taking Lives.

For a mystery thriller, Taking Lives is fairly predictable. It is only due to the talents of stars Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke -- both of whom are far better than this material -- that this movie manages to entertain at all. Together they eke some tense moments out of the ludicrous plot, but even they can't manage enough energy to overcome the way over the top ending.

Jolie plays Illeana Scott, an FBI agent brought in to help solve a series of murders in Montreal. Her character isn't a direct lift of Jodie Foster's from The Silence of the Lambs, but the two women would definitely be able to make interesting conversation if they ever met. The major difference being that Jolie is far sexier than Foster, and isn't afraid of showing it, once again doing a nude scene.

The case she has been brought in to help with involves a serial killer who has been stealing the lives of his victims for the past twenty years. Her presence is unwelcome by the French Canadian police who have been on the case for years. What she manages to bring is her own unique investigative style, which involves lying in the unearthed grave of the most recent victim of the murderer to get a feel for the case from the inside.

A break in the investigation comes when a witness (Hawke) to one of the murders suddenly appears. Sensing that the killer will be coming after the witness, the police put him under their protection. Confusing matters is the obvious attraction between Illeana and the witness.

Since this is a mystery, there are plenty of misleading subplots and characters to confusion the action. However, even with the cinematic sleight of hand, the identity of the killer is easily predicted and only comes as a surprise to the characters in the movie.

Director D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea) does manage to give the movie a dark and stylish look. He also very expertly throws one big 'jump' moment into the middle of the story, but disappointingly it is the only surprise in the whole movie.

Most of Taking Lives is a nothing extraordinary, wait-until-it's-out-on-DVD, halfway predictable thriller. However, what small entertainment value the movie has is thrown away with a truly ludicrous ending that stretches the level of credibility past the breaking point. It tries to have a twist to it but fails. It tries to be shocking, but fails. Most of all it tries to surprise you, but fails miserably. And since the body of the movie is already so forgettable, it's a sure bet that the sour ending is the one thing you'll take away from this movie.

Angelina Jolie is a talented and beautiful actress. Her choice of movie roles lately has become a bit dubious. This marks her third clunker in a row. If she wants to get her career back on track, lets hope she becomes a little more discerning in the future.

Reviewed on: April 26th, 2005
Anglina Jolie in Taking Lives.

Anglina Jolie in Taking Lives.

Taking Lives tries way too hard. Every plot device is over done and the ending is indeed a bit ludicrous.

While I agree with Scott that “Angelina Jolie is a talented and beautiful actress" I found her to be unbelievable in this role. Unlike Jodie Foster's Clarisse in Silence of the Lambs Jolie's Illeana is nearly superhuman. She's impossibly brave, clever and strong. And Jolie overacts.

I've never been a big fan of Ethan Hawke's. I think he's overrated as an actor. Nothing in this movie changed my opinion of him.

The best performance in the movie belongs to Gena Rowlands as the killer's mother. But like Judi Dench in most of her recent roles she is far superior to the material. But I guess it pays the bills.

Taking Lives is an overdone, run of the mill, mystery/thriller that will soon be forgotten.

Reviewed on: May 20th, 2009
Martinez and Jolie.

Martinez and Jolie.

Taking Lives fails on many different levels, but the writing must bear most of the blame. The killer is obvious from the moment he appears on screen. As such, they should have just came out and said that he is indeed the killer, thus allowing the audience to enjoy his cat and mouse with full disclosure. Since the killer is so apparent, the only shock left is how they discover who it is.

The scene of discovery is error. The killer has for 20 years been killing and imitating people to a successful level. For someone so good at flying under the radar, he chooses a very public, and gruesome, way to kill someone. One that could have very easily got him caught.

Another big hole is the one where Jolie breaks into a house, moves a bookcase, opens a secret door, goes into a dusty basement that has no working lights, forces open another door, only to find that someone else is already there. Someone who had the amazing hindsight to close every door behind them as they came in?

The biggest WTF plot device is the relationship between Jolie and Hawke. She plays such an amazing professional that she is flown to Canada from Washington, to help out. After only a couple of meetings with a questionable witness, she falls in love with him? He looks like a crack head and acts nervous all the time. What in the hell would a strong, intelligent woman see in him? Clarice Starling, she is not!

The cast is adequate at best. Hawke has the meatier role, but is fairly forgettable. He should have been laughing, or at least wearing a huge mocking grin when Jolie finds him in the elevator. It is an over the top scene. It required over the top acting. Jolie is one of the most photogenic actresses of the decade, but the only thing I will remember of her role is that she gets slapped around a couple of times and disrobes. Since Scott saw this movie she has done some better films, but sadly, no more nude scenes.