I’ve become a real sucker for Liam Neeson. I’ve always liked him, but now it seems that I really really like him. The previews for Unknown did have that Taken vibe to them and I won’t deny that I was kind of hoping for something similar. What I got was different, but in all honesty, I didn’t expect it to be the same. It had Liam and I knew at some point he’d be handling a gun. Enough said.
Neeson plays Martin Harris. A scientist who travels to Berlin for a conference with his wife, Elizabeth (January Jones). After an accident leaves him in a coma for four days, Martin wakes with fractured memories. He returns to the hotel where he left his wife only to find that she pretends to not know him and that another man (Aidan Quinn) has taken his identity. Now it’s up to Martin to piece together his fragmented memory with only the help of the cab driver who was in the accident with him, Gina (Diane Kruger).
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and written by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell and based on the book, Out of My Head by Didier Van Cauwelaert, Unknown may come off as similar to Taken in the previews and posters, but on its own is a very capable thriller. When the film starts you see a husband and wife who seem very happy in their marriage. After Martin’s accident, you begin to question if what Martin remembers is real or not. The film does a great job by keeping the audience in the dark just as much as Martin. It doesn’t give too many clues and at times I felt frustrated just like the character. This can be a double-edged sword however, because some may just get fed up and bail. I persevered though and I’m glad I did.
Another entry into the foreign location thrillers, the back drop of Berlin lends itself nicely to the story. Wandering around an unfamiliar city, in a foreign country no less can be intimidating enough, but add to that the fact that you can’t remember squat, and it’s downright scary. I love that Neeson can play pretty much any character. Especially now that he’s added “Bad Ass” to his CV. Here he’s confused, scared, upset, angry, and everything in between and all of those emotions are fleshed out.
Sadly however, the remainder of the cast felt a little bit underused. The character of Elizabeth just irritated me a bit and I can’t really pinpoint what it was about her that I didn’t like. To me, she didn’t quite fit right with him and it went downhill from there. I’ve always liked Diane Kruger and here is no different. They give a little bit of back story on her, but it’s not a lot. Aidan Quinn can play both the good guy and the bad guy and here you’re not sure which category he falls into. You’re pretty sure he’s bad, but is he? The movie leads you to think so, but it’s not clear until the climax of the film. Is Martin crazy? Is he remembering things that actually happened? These are the questions the movie asks.
I will definitely give the movie credit where the action scenes are concerned. There is a car chase scene that is loaded with awesome. It’s frantic, and jarring and explosive and just over all very well done. Hard to believe that the this isn’t coming from a super seasoned action director. Instead, Collet-Serra has more of a foothold in the horror genre, which bleeds through in parts. Little jolts and startles happen though out but if he did that by design to keep the viewer on their toes, then he succeeded. At least with me.
Overall I really enjoyed Unknown. I’m afraid of discussing it too much because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Should you go see it? I say yes. If you’re still on the fence, check out the trailer below and prepare to be pushed over into wanting to go.
Verdict: 3 out of 5 togas
**Banner photo from BeyondHollywood.comTags: Aidan Quinn, Bad Ass, Diane Kruger, Didier Van Cauwelaert, January Jones, Jaume Collet-Serra, Liam Neeson, Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell, Unknown