Film / Taking Lives

Taking Lives is a 2004 crime thriller directed by D. J. Caruso, starring Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke and Kiefer Sutherland.

Jolie plays FBI Agent Illeana Scott, flown (for puzzling reasons not well explained—although most likely the writers' ignorance of CSIS, the Canadian equivalent of the CIA, or Mountie procedures) into Montreal to assist with the local police's investigation of a murderer. Hawke plays James Costa, a witness to the crime, whom she must protect. The case gets interesting when she deduces that the killer is actually stealing the identities of his victims, making him harder to track. Tchéky Karyo, Olivier Martinez and Jean-Hugues Anglade also star as Montreal police detectives assigned to the case.

The film is a relatively by-the-numbers crime thriller, taking heavy cues from Se7en in terms of tone and style (the opening credits are almost plagiarised), but is still an enjoyable watch. Critical reception was negative. The consensus seems to be that it's nothing new into the genre, with the biggest criticism seems to be how easy it is to spot The Reveal even from the start of the film.

The film is based on a novel by Michael Pye, but is adapted very loosely. For starters, Jolie's character doesn't appear in the novel.

This film contains examples of:

  • Artistic License Geography: On a three-hour train ride from Montreal to Fredericton. Which IRL takes 22 hours!
    • The Mountains of Illinois — Or the establishing shot that shows us we're in Montreal by showing us... the Château Frontenac, the most famous building in Quebec City.
  • Batman Gambit
  • Bilingual Backfire: Done over the course of a few scenes. The two detectives speak French, insulting Illeana (and the viewers, since they had to import French Quebec...Wrong accent!). She reacts at the time, although it also looks like she might just be a bit unsettled by their using a different language to her. Then two scenes later she calls them out on it.
  • The Chessmaster
  • Didn't See That Coming
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Please refer to the work's title.
  • Destructo-Nookie: The natural progression from wall-banging.note 
  • Freudian Excuse: Explained by Agent Scott during her profiling brief.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: A pregnant Scott gets stabbed in the belly at the end of the film. Subverted in that the belly is fake and it was part of the plan to catch the killer.
  • Kansas City Shuffle
  • Matricide: Soon after the Serial Killer's mother reveals his identity to the police, she's found in an elevator with her head sawed off by her blood-drenched son.
  • Pillow Pregnancy: Angelina Jolie does it, though she uses a more convincing prosthetic to convince Ethan Hawke that she's eight months pregnant with his child, so that he'll think she's unable to fight back when he attacks her. In the end, she stabs him dead, and then finally removes the prosthetic to show the audience that she had been faking her pregnancy for nine whole months, simply to bait him. This also creates an opportunity for a particularly disturbing Kick the Dog moment on the part of Ethan Hawke's character, who stabs her "pregnant" belly with a pair of scissors, evidently willing to kill her even though he believed her pregnant with his own twins...
  • Police Are Useless: The woman claiming to have seen her dangerous son isn't taken very seriously by the interviewer.
  • Right Through His Pants: During a sex scene, Angelina Jolie wears only an open robe but Ethan Hawke keeps his suit on.
  • Scare Chord
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Illeana gets quite a belly from her one night stand. Of course, it turns out the pregnancy was faked to lure her fugitive serial killer baby-daddy into an FBI trap. Good thing, too, as he stabs her in her (fake) stomach.
  • Title Drop: By Agent Scott as she's getting everyone up to speed on her latest theory.
  • Wall Bang Her: Happens between Illeana and James, though they eventually move onto the bed.
  • Where Did We Go Wrong?: Mrs. Asher acts as though she might ask herself this.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Probably not the one getting her head cut off.