Taking Lives (2004)

Taking Lives
Director: D.J. Caruso
Writer: Jon Bokenkamp
Based on: Michael Pye’s novel
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Kiefer Sutherland, Gena Rowlands, Olivier Martinez, Tchéky Karyo, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Paul Dano, Justin Chatwin
Seen on: 24.5.2022

When French police uncover a case that point to a serial killer, they ask FBI profiler Illeana (Angelina Jolie) for support, much to the annoyance of leading detective Paquette (Olivier Martinez). By chance, they find a new lead. Artist Costa (Ethan Hawke) was witness to an attack by the killer and can give a description. But this also puts him in the crosshairs. As the investigation intensifies, Illeana finds herself drawn to Costa. But will this attraction compromise her abilities?

Taking Lives is okay. The idea isn’t bad and the cast good, but the movie tries to surprise where its obvious and Illeana is filtered through the male gaze a whole lot which makes it a little tedious.

The film poster showing Illeana (Angelina Jolie) with a hand wrapped around her wrist, close to her neck.

I’m not much for serial killer movies or thrillers in general. It’s just not my genre. I mostly find the plots to be formulaic and not in the pleasurable way. I decided to watch this film anyway because I was intrigued by the cast. So, I might be giving Taking Lives a harder time than it deserves.

Taking Lives could have created tension by having the audience have more information than Illeana. I mean, that’s what happens anyway, but if they had gone for it on purpose, they could have worked with it. Instead the film tries to create tension by surprising the audience with a twist. Which is doomed to fail because it’s just so damn obvious.

Illeana (Angelina Jolie) standing at the site of a car accident, a burning car behind her.

I was also more than a little annoyed with how busy the film is with ogling Illeana. And I don’t necessarily mean this in the literal way – the male gaze here works mostly on a more abstract level. Illeana isn’t so much a character as a male fantasy. Jolie does her best to wrangle more from the character, and especially when she is on screen with Hawke, the two absolutely transcende the source material. But still, the source material is not great.

I have definitely seen worse films than Taking Lives, that’s for sure. But there’s also a reason why this film is mostly forgotten. It’s just not that good either.

Illeana (Angelina Jolie) talking to Costa (Ethan Hawke) in a bar.

Summarizing: This one gets a resounding should shrug.

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