Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on February 18, 2011
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell
Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Frank Langella, Bruno Ganz, Sebastian Koch, Olivier Schneider, Stipe Erceg, Rainer Bock, Mido Hamada, Karl Markovics, Eva Löbaua, Clint Dyer
A man and his wife arrive in Berlin to attend a biotech conference, and when the man accidentally leaves his briefcase at the airport, he grabs a taxi and races back to retrieve it, only to have the cab crash and knock him into a four-day coma. When he awakens in a hospital, he has no identification, his wife doesn’t know him, and a stranger has not only taken his name, but taken his wife as well. Soon, a handful of killers are out to eliminate the man and anyone he comes in contact with, including the innocent cab driver who saved his life.
I don’t want to give too much away, but early on I couldn’t help but think of the Harrison Ford thriller Frantic and the little-known television series Nowhere Man, both of which featured storylines where family, friends, and acquaintances suddenly don’t know who you are, what it is you’re trying to convince them of, or why you keep bothering them. But of course, all is not what it seems in Unknown, and soon clues and reveals play out, and the story switches gears and becomes a sort of reverse variation of The Bourne Identity, where our hero discovers he’s more than just a guy casually dropping by a foreign botany convention.
Liam Neeson plays the guy, and I have to admit I’m kinda liking him in these ‘man of action’ parts he’s been involved with of late: the Taken series, Non-Stop, and last year’s Run All Night. To me he handles the task well, playing an everyday person thrown into events beyond his control, and convincing us that he can be pushed to a point where his skills at—and acceptance of—violence and killing are not only natural, but necessary. And exhilarating, if you’re anything like me, and enjoy seeing bad guys get their hard-earned due.
Sure, I had to suspend disbelief a few times with the action scenes, and too often the story structure felt derivative of those movies I mentioned above, but I was still consistently entertained, and the story kept throwing little surprises and detours out there to make up for some lapses in logic and believability. Without a doubt, it was Neeson who held it all together, and kept you wanting more, but I also liked Diane Kruger’s helpful cab driver, who displayed some kick-ass moments of her own, and director Jaume Collet-Serra, who’s worked with Neeson quite a few times already, and did a decent job here with the visuals and chase-and-crash sequences.
For me, this was a fairly decent psychological thriller, with some revved-up moments of action and gunplay thrown in for good heart-pounding measure. I’ll always get a kick out of these types of movies (maybe because sometimes I secretly wish I could be one of these guys), so they’ll always score an extra point or two with me for that reason alone. However, if that’s not your cup of tea, or if you’re not a fan of Neeson in head-busting mode, or if genetically-modified corn is not your idea of a solid plot device (seriously), then please take my review rating with a grain of salt. (7/10)