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Film / Taking Lives

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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 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:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Rebecca Asher was neglectful towards Martin and clearly favored his twin brother. She even made him stay in her house's dilapidated basement, and forced him to wear unprescribed glasses he didn't even need just so she could tell him apart from his twin.
    • Subverted with Martin. He slaps around a visibly pregnant Scott, even stabbing her stomach. However, she was never pregnant in the first place, only pretending to be to draw out Martin.
  • Amicable Exes: It's implied to be averted with Detective Duval and his ex-wife when he jokingly replies to Paquette's comment about her huge breasts, that he (Duval) hoped they drag her down a river to drown.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The French actors playing the detectives make no attempt to sound Canadian or emulate a (very distinctive) Quebecois accent.
  • Asshole Victim: Rebecca is an abusive mother and just a Jerkass in general, so it's hard to feel bad when she's murdered by Martin.
  • 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Scott loses her job after admitting to having consensual sex with Asher, but manages to kill the serial killer seven months later.
  • 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 
  • Disappeared Dad: Whoever father Martin and Reese with Mrs. Asher is not brought up.
  • Dislikes the New Guy: Paquette doesn't hide his dislike of Scott being in their investigation.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Scott's first scene has her lying in a victim's grave and then analyzing the clues from said grave.
  • Freudian Excuse: Explained by Agent Scott during her profiling brief.
  • Heroic BSoD: Scott gets a major one after finding out that James Costa is the serial killer Martin Asher, who not only convincingly tricked her but also had sex with.
  • 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.
  • It's Personal: At first, Scott only saw the killer as someone to bring down but comes to have a personal vendetta against him after he tricked her, leading to them having consensual sex, and getting her fired from the FBI.
  • Kansas City Shuffle
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Paquette slaps an already distraught Scott in the aftermath of discovering Costa was Martin.
    • Martin stabbing a "pregnant" Scott's belly with his "children". Thankfully, she was faking her pregnancy.
  • 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.
  • The Murder After: After having sex, Illeana wakes up and finds James in a pool of blood. Subverted, as James is fine, he just tore his stitches in the night.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Reese, the twin brother of Martin, drowned as a teen. Mrs. Asher began to neglect Martin soon after that.
  • Pet the Dog: After slapping Scott, Paquette gives a genuine apology to her.
  • 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, Illeana wears only an open robe but James 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.
  • Time Skip Seven months pass after Martin escapes and Scott is fired from the FBI.
  • Title Drop: By Agent Scott as she's getting everyone up to speed on her latest theory.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When Mrs. Asher is confronted by Martin in the elevator, she attempts to demand her emotionally deranged adult son who she knows is a serial killer, to step out of her way. She dies a few seconds later.
  • Villainous Crush: Their final confrontation shows that Martin honestly had a warped love for Scott.
  • Wall Bang Her: Happens between Illeana and James, though they eventually move onto the bed.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: The killer only wanted Mrs. Asher's love.
  • 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.
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • Enraged by Scott being tricked by (and having sex with) the serial killer responsible for Duval's death, Paquette slaps Scott, which angers Leclair. Paquette later apologizes to Scott for the slap.
    • Costa aka Martin not only kills his mother but also physically assaults a "pregnant" Scott.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Martin certainly shows he would do this when he "stabs" Scott's "pregnant" belly.