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Movie Review

Taking Lives

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence including disturbing images, language and some sexuality

Reviewed by: Misty Wagner

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teens and Adults
Thriller, Crime/Gangster, Action Adventure and Drama
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Featuring: Angelina Jolie (Beyond Borders, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Gone in 60 Seconds)
Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Snow Falling on Cedars, Gattaca)
Kiefer Sutherland (24, Phone Booth, To End All Wars)
Olivier Martinez (S.W.A.T., Unfaithful)
Gena Rowlands (Paulie, Two Minute Warning)
Director: D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea)
Produced by: Mark Canton, Bernie Goldmann, David Heyman
Distributor: Warner Bros.

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: A top FBI profiler, Special Agent Illeana Scott (Academy Award-winner Angelina Jolie) doesn’t rely on traditional crime-solving techniques to unravel the mysteries of a murderous mind. Her intuitive, unconventional approach is often the only way to unlock the identities of the killers for the police to capture.

When Montreal detectives handling a local homicide investigation reluctantly ask for an outsider’s help to get inside the head of a cunning serial killer, Agent Scott joins the case. With meticulous insight, she theorizes that the chameleon-like killer is “life-jacking”—assuming the lives and identities of his victims.
As the pressure mounts to catch the elusive murderer, Agent Scott’s unorthodox methods alienate her from a territorial police team that feels threatened by her uncanny abilities. Her seemingly cold demeanor belies an unparalleled passion for her work, and she’s at her best when she’s working alone. But when an unexpected attraction sparks a complicated romantic entanglement, the consummate specialist begins to doubt her finely honed instincts.

Alone in an unfamiliar city with no one she can trust, Agent Scott suddenly finds herself on a twisted and terrifying journey, surrounded by suspects in a case that has become chillingly personal.


The story of “Taking Lives” begins with a “look at the past” and how a killer’s life took the path that it did—that of taking lives, not just by taking the life of his victims, but also by assuming their lives (identity theft) and living as them until he is ready to move on to a new victim.

Copyright, Warner Bros.

Although that is how the movie begins, the main character is actually Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie), who is an FBI profiler brought up to Canada from the U.S. to help on this case of what the Montreal police believe may be a serial killer. Illeana has very untraditional methods of finding clues and profiling her killers. One example: She goes straight to the grave of one of the murder victims to “lay in it, and get a feel for it” rather then reporting straight to the police with whom she was brought in to work. Her unconventional methods, which are often met with much criticism, seem to be “right on target.” And so, through her, the police come closer and closer to the suspect.

The movie also includes Ethan Hawke (James Costa) as a key witness in one of the murders, and Keiffer Sutherland as the suspected serial killer and Olivier Martinez as detective Paquette.

“Taking Lives” is a very average crime/profiler movie—much like a version of the hit television show “C.S.I.” made to fit into the format of a big screen movie. With such a talented cast of people who are not usually cast in this type of film, I had higher hopes. The trailers gave the impression that it was a horror/psychological thriller. It is even being compared to “Silence of the Lambs” which I will confess, made me a bit hesitant to see it. However, I can assure you that this movie is not scary. There are a few moments that may make you jump, but they are shown in the previews (therefore taking away much of the surprise.)

The two main characters (played by Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke) were developed well. The character played by Gina Rowlands in the role of the mother of the serial killer is elusive enough to keep the audience guessing. Hawke gives a strong performance, although it may not seem that way until nearer the end of the film.

Unfortunately, the movie is overall rather predictable.


The language is very harsh although inconsistently so; it’s as though the movie has a few moments of heavy profanities (especially the f-word, and s-word) while the rest of the move seems to have none.

Crime scenes are shown, and many crime scene photos. Illeana lives with these pictures, eats meals while staring at them, sleeps with them taped above her bed, and even bathes while staring at them. The graphicness and gore could be offensive to some.

There are two scenes of nudity. A male body is briefly shown lying in the morgue, and there is a very explicit sex scene between the characters played by Jolie and Hawke. I was deeply offended during this scene, and although the knowledge of them having had sexual relations is important to the plot, the scene was unnecessary.

Overall, if you are really into crime-scene/drama style movies, then you may like “Taking Lives.” However, if you are planning to view this movie because of the THRILLer aspect, you will probably be disappointed.

Because of the language, content and sex scene, this film is certainly not for young teens, and the R rating should be taken seriously.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—Yawn and close your eyes! Despite the previews and some alleged reviews by top movie critics, “Taking Lives” does not deliver what it promises. “Hitchcock would be proud!,” was one reviewers comment. While there is some suspense, the plot and twists (reviewers tell readers about twists) are fairly transparent—the suspense, so so. Some of the story line is pretty incredible—meaning hard to believe.

Then there is the steamy sex scene that (contrary to some reviews I’ve read) was not necessary to the story line. I am referring to the graphic nature of the scene and when you really stop to think about it, the story did not have to go in a direction requiring relations between the characters. there is another scene of nudity.

Sorry but this film was disappointing and offensive and I cannot recommend it for any reason to anyone—especially Christians.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/3]
—Tony, age 46
Neutral—I actually enjoyed the plot and the twists in this movie. It kept me guessing the whole time, trying to figure it out. There was some objectionable language (which I would prefer not to hear), but not in excess. The most objectionable part was the sex scene; we watched it on DVD and were able to skip ahead, so I really don’t know how graphic it was (there was definite nudity though). The characters sleeping together was crucial to the story line, however it could have just been eluded to without the graphicness (guess that’s how they got their R rating though!) I would only recommend this on if you can skip through the sex scene. I did find it to be well done.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Laurie, age 43
Neutral—I liked the plot of the movie, although, it was pretty predictable. This is an adult movie, there are some scary parts in it. There was quite a bit of language and way to much skin! (extreme nudity-female) un-called for, as usual. Aside from that, good movie, especially the twist at the end.
My Ratings: [Average/2½]
—KC, age 23
Positive—This is a movie about a serial killer, of course there are scenes of violence. but in the end good wins. If killing people offends you don’t watch it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Sage, age 20
Positive—This film is VERY well done. I’m not going to spoil everything, but the director’s inclusion of Mr. Sutherland was genius. Although I disagree with the general sexual undertones of much of Ms. Jolie’s work, I can still appreciate her great gift for acting. This film is well cast! There is a little bit of language, all of which I think was well justified (a couple of f-words.) BTW not all of the French is literally translated!

The images of death can be somewhat graphic; however, in a movie about a psychopath, it is to be expected. One of the later deaths occurs in an elevator—that one is more gory than the others because there is fresh blood and a “real” body, where the other victims are only seen in photographs. There is one bedroom scene which, though essential to the plot, is a bit overdone. It could have been implied and worked just as well. HINT: get the DVD and skip this chapter! Overall, a well done movie—though not for the weak of stomach.
My Ratings: [Offensive/4]
—Elena, age 17
Movie Critics
…First-rate production values and Angelina Jolie cannot overcome threadbare material… discouraging, routine material…
—Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter
…things unfold in the usual hyped-up, improbable fashion…
—A.O. Scott, New York Times
…too dull… For those who have better things to do (reading Proust, scraping burger residue off the backyard grill), the trouble with indulging “Taking Lives” is that it’s taking your time.
—Mike Clark, USA Today
…“Taking Lives” isn’t just a movie title, it’s a declaration. Those who fall prey to its marketing campaign (or, indeed, Jolie’s distinctive bottom lip) will lose 103 minutes of their lives to an unimaginative, protracted gore-fest…
—Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune
…a great deal of blood and graphic killing, strong language and a brief but explicit sexual encounter…
—Brian Hughes, Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…deserves extreme caution for foul language and brief sexual content…
—Tom Snyder, Movieguide