Taken (Miniseries)

Taken is a twenty hour long look at three
families touched by extra-terrestrials

One of my personal favorite types of novels are those that are thick, rich in detail and cover many generations, like the works of Michener with books like Hawaii. Usually, the time constraints on films keep such a project off the screen. With the advent of the mini-series on television these longer stories can be told better than ever. One of the most ambitious is the Sci-Fi channel’s presentation of Taken, a twenty hour long look at three families touched by extra-terrestrials.

Naturally, the story begins in 1947 with the now famous, is that infamous, UFO crash in Roswell. One of the military men assigned to investigate is Captain Owen Crawford (Joel Gretsch) to progenitor of one of the three families in this tale. He represents the obsessive military, those that feel it is their patriotic duty to protect their country from this menace even if it means killing a few innocent civilians and family members along the way. Crawford’s motto seems to be ‘For the Greater Good’. Then there is Captain Russell Keys (Steve Burton) a man that enlisted to serve his country yet all his life has been adducted (taken, get it) by the aliens as part of a multi-generation study by our silvery little visitors. His family motto "The truth is out there". The conflict here is one of the most frightening in human experience, doubting your very sanity. Plagued by the memory gaps and the strange dream like remnants of memories both Keys and his son drift through life hoping to make sense of what happens to them. Finally, there is Sally Clarke (Catherine Dent), a young single mother that takes in a stranger who happens to be an escaped alien and has his child, their family motto ‘Family above all else’. As her illegitimate son grows it is obvious that he is not like other children. Little Jacob can move things with his mind, influence other people and embodies the family secret in an all too physical way.

While many films have concentrated on one plot line or another, Taken (Miniseries) makes the bold move to weave all these viewpoints into one massive tapestry where each thread entwines with the others, sometimes moving together, other times drifting away. The full gamut of human emotion is studied here. Everything from paranoia, suspicion, love, hate and confusion is flayed open for inspection. You really need a visual score card for this series since as the characters grow older various actors take on the roles. Still there is an internal consistency to the production that sets it above the typical 44 minute television show. It takes some dedication on the part of the viewer to get Taken (Miniseries), there are a lot of sub plots to contend with, but ultimately your patience will be rewarded.

As I just mentioned most characters here have more than one actor. This makes Taken (Miniseries) a perfect showcase for performers of all ages. Two of the better performances was by Elle Fanning and her older sister the now popular Dakota Fanning. Talent certainly runs through this family. Fanning is not only the ultimate goal of the story but provides the running commentary for the tale. Elle has the natural role of the younger version of Dakota's character. They look so much alike it certainly works. Dent as the mother of the star child is one of those actresses that you may recognize from other things but may not place her name. Now she is best known for her portrayal in the hit Fox television drama The Shield. Here she presents a true human presentation of a war widow, an all too frequent experience after World War Two. Lonely, depressed and overwhelmed she turns to the kind stranger for reassurance of her humanity even though in this case the one she turns to is not human. Dent embodies the strength women like this had to find in themselves. Gretsch is a little over the top here. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.

Every story needs a villain and one that is presented beyond reason helps to polarize the emotions of the audience. Rather than making the government of the military the bad guy the Crawfords serve to as the antagonists not so much from evil motives but this is a case where the best of intensions when taken to the point of obsession can go astray. It is only natural that not all of the characters in this flick can be fleshed out, after all the sheer number of speaking roles borders on a record. Yet, the actors involve with this production all do their best to present something that will hold your interest and help you to believe.

Typical of a television production each episode had a different director. For the most part there was consistency between the episodes but any variations in style are usually masked by the long time line of the story. Each decade makes its own demands and the directors assigned are up to it. The overall force behind Taken (Miniseries) is Steven Spielberg. He is one of the few director/producers in Hollywood that is not afraid to admit that television helped shape his career and style. It is his input that provides the necessary continuity to this effort. Only someone with the clout of Spielberg could have gotten this project of the ground. Pacing is all important to such a lengthy show. The action may wax and wane but there is enough to keep you interested and watching. He gives the support to his cast and crew to do their best but still infuses the presentation with his own style. His focus on the children, especially having the commentator a child, reflects the fears and doubts of the adults yet they are able to overcome the most difficult situations.

I purposely avoided watching most of Taken (Miniseries) on television. I knew that there would be a DVD and wanted to savor the experience. The wait was worth it. This DVD demonstrates that Universal can produce a quality product. The video is a consistent and clean anamorphic 1.85:1. There is a proper balance of the color palette including the all important demarcation between light and shadow. The audio is a step up for most of us from the television presentation, a nice rich Dolby 5.1. While the sub woofer is not over used it does punctuate the sound stage. The ten episodes are on five discs, two per disc. The sixth disc provides the extras. Included here are cast and crew biographies, a look at the time line and information about the plethora of directors. This is a commitment for any viewer but if you are into UFO stories, Taken (Miniseries) is the definitive work to have.

Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com

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