Taking Lives (film)

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Taking Lives
A woman with a man behind her, his arm wrapped around her.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by D. J. Caruso
Produced by Mark Canton
Bernie Goldmann
Written by Michael Pye (novel)
Screenplay by Jon Bokenkamp
Starring Angelina Jolie
Ethan Hawke
Kiefer Sutherland
Olivier Martinez
Tchéky Karyo
Jean-Hugues Anglade
Gena Rowlands
Music by Philip Glass
Cinematography Amir Mokri
Studio Village Roadshow Pictures
Atmosphere Pictures
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates March 19, 2004 (2004-03-19)
Running time 103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $45 million[1]
Box office $65,470,529

Taking Lives is a 2004 American psychological thriller film starring Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke. The film was marketed with the tagline "He would kill to be you."

The original music score was composed by Philip Glass and the main title's theme was composed by Austrian Walter Werzowa, best known for the Intel jingle and his work in the band Edelweiss. The film was loosely adapted from a 1999 thriller novel by Michael Pye of the same title.

Story and writing credit[edit]

The film was based on the novel of the same title by Michael Pye. Numerous hands had a part in the screenplay as script doctors. The cover page of the screenplay credits Jon Bokenkamp with the original draft, Nicholas Kazan with subsequent revisions, Hilary Seitz with more revisions, and David Ayer with the last revisions (to February 28, 2003). The WGA screenwriting credit system ultimately awarded screenplay and adaptation credit to Bokenkamp alone.


The film opens in the early 1980s where teenager Martin Asher (Paul Dano) is seen fleeing from home, taking a bus in Canada. He befriends another teen on the bus, Matt Soulsby (Justin Chatwin) and the two talk about their plans for the future. When their bus breaks down, the two decide to rent a car and drive all the way to Seattle. While Matt is changing a flat tire, Martin comments on how he and Matt are both about the same height, and pushes Matt in the way of an oncoming truck. He is last seen taking Matt's guitar and walking away singing in the fashion that Matt had been in the car.

Twenty years later, a successful FBI profiler, Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie), is summoned to help out Canadian law enforcement in Montreal, to apprehend Asher, who has been killing people for years and assuming their identities as he travels across North America. Illeana has to adjust to working in a strange city with a police team that she does not really fit in with. Meanwhile, Mrs. Asher (Gena Rowlands), Martin's mother, claims she has recently seen her son on the ferry to Quebec City and tells the police she truly believes Martin is evil.

The team meets with art salesman James Costa (Hawke), an eyewitness who saw Asher kill his last victim. James makes a drawing of Asher and, within a couple of days, Asher's apartment is found. Illeana discovers Asher's next target is Costa, so protecting him is priority number one. During the time they spend together, Illeana and James begin to develop feelings for each other, though Illeana refuses to become involved with him because of the ongoing case.

After kidnapping Costa with Illeana in pursuit, Asher supposedly dies in a car accident and the case is closed. As Illeana is packing up in preparation to return home, Costa visits her in her hotel room. Without saying anything, he undresses her and they make passionate love on a chest of drawers and the bed, surrounded by gruesome crime scene photos. The next morning, Illeana awakes to find herself partly covered in Costa's blood. At first, she fears he is dead, but then he awakes and they discover he had merely popped the stitches in his arm that he needed following the accident.

As Costa has his stitches re-sewn in the hospital, Illeana is called down to the morgue as Mrs. Asher has come to identify the body presumed to be her son. The body turns out not to be her son's; Martin is still alive somewhere. An irritated Mrs. Asher leaves the morgue and gets into the elevator, but before Illeana can follow her in, the doors shut. When they finally open, Illeana sees James covered in blood, standing over a dead Mrs. Asher, realizing that Costa is Asher, and that Asher killed the actual Costa months ago. Horrified by the discovery that she had slept with a serial killer, Illeana almost faints as the police unsuccessfully try to prevent Asher from escaping the hospital. Illeana later returns to her hotel room and frantically washes herself, in a state of manic disgust. An investigation shows that the man the real Asher had identified as Asher was really Christopher Hart (Kiefer Sutherland), an art thief who did business with Asher, and whom Asher owed $80,000 to, but had nothing to do with the murders. The Montreal police chase Asher, but he escapes in a train station and disappears, and approaches his next victim, a traveling sports talent scout. After that, he calls Illeana on the phone and taunts her. Illeana admits to having consensual sex with Asher and although it was after the investigation had been presumed closed she is still, consequently fired from the FBI. "After carefully reviewing Special Agent Scott's record with the Bureau... The Office of Professional Responsibility has issued a letter of termination citing egregious lack of judgment and conduct unbecoming of a federal agent."

Seven months later, Illeana is living in a desolate farmhouse by herself in rural Pennsylvania and looking heavily pregnant with Asher's twin boys. One day as she sits alone in her home, she discovers Asher has broken into her house. She frantically tries to escape, but Asher quickly overpowers her and then reveals he has found all the guns she had hidden throughout the house. Asher makes her tea and tells her they could start over and live together as a family, but a disgusted Illeana tells him she does not want to. That these are not his babies that she is carrying, they are 'James Costa's' babies and that she does not even know who he is. In fury, Asher begins beating and choking her and eventually stabs her in her pregnant belly with a pair of scissors. Illeana, seemingly unharmed by the stabbing, shocks Asher by quickly stabbing him in the heart with the same scissors. As Asher lies dying, Illeana removes a prosthetic pregnant belly, and tells him the past seven months have been a carefully planned trap. The film ends with Illeana calling the police, saying "It's over," and staring out her window.



Critical response[edit]

The film has received mostly poor reviews, Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 22% based on reviews from 157 critics.[2] Film critic Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars, describing it as "an effective thriller, on its modest but stylish level".[3] Total Film, a UK film magazine, gave it two stars out of five with the verdict: "Starting off well but rapidly losing its way, Taking Lives is more serial-killer flick than serial killer -- we've been fed this mush a thousand times."[4]

Angelina Jolie earned a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actress for her performance in the movie (also for Alexander), but lost the trophy to Halle Berry for Catwoman.

Box office[edit]

Taking Lives grossed $32,682,342 in the United States and $65,470,529 worldwide.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Taking Lives (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  2. ^ "Taking Lives". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-12-21. 
  3. ^ "Taking Lives Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. 2004-03-19. Retrieved 2009-12-21. 
  4. ^ "Review of Taking Lives". Retrieved 2009-12-21. 

External links[edit]