Unknown Movie Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

Unknown
Reviewed by Damien Straker on February 16, 2011
Roadshow
presents a film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Screenplay by Oliver Butcher & Stephen Cornwell from the book "Out of My Head" by Didier van Cauwelaert
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, Frank Langella
Running Time: 113 minutes
Rating: M15+
Released: February 17, 2011


6/10

 


Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and his wife Elizabeth (January Jones) fly into Berlin to attend a biotechnology conference with a colleague. As his wife tries to check into their hotel, Martin notices that one of his bags is missing. He takes a cab to go back and retrieve the bag. The taxi enters a crash and Martin is left unconscious, only to be saved by the driver, Gina (Diane Kruger). When Martin wakes up from a coma he sets out to find his wife. He discovers her at the bio conference but she claims that she does not know him and that another man (Aidan Quinn) is married to her and is the real Martin Harris. Martin sets out to reclaim his identity by tracking down Gina, who is now working as a waitress. He also employs the help of Ernst Jürgen (Bruno Ganz), who used to be a Stasi officer in East Germany. He specialises in tracking down people and Harris uses this skill to try and contact his friend Rodney Cole (Frank Langella), back in the USA.

Unknown was the wrong title. This is a film about identity loss and yet it includes a checklist of familiar scenarios and set pieces from a dozen other action films. The film commences intriguingly enough, mostly because of the slick, classical direction of Jaume Collet-Serra. His icily photographed film was shot on location in Berlin, and the omission of the shaky camera in these opening exchanges allows for smoother control.

With this isolated and grey Cold War-like feel, it is hard not to be mildly drawn in by a curious, if familiar, premise. The early intensity at least makes it interesting to see how the film will unravel. Unfortunately a lot of suspense is undone by some routine dialogue of the 'that man is pretending to be me' kind, and some surprisingly flat revelations. Judging from the accent of the German doctor who aids Martin, I was expecting some crazed German mind games. But there's too much Bourne here and a silly finale owes more than a little to the superior Salt from last year. The two writers credited to the screenplay were unimaginative enough to even include a digital readout bomb that needs to be disarmed. In between, there are some tired car chases and fist fights, chaotically edited, with the shaky cam and rapid cutting rearing their ugly heads. Any subtext relating to the submissive identities of migrants runs second to clichés like black four wheel drives and trained assassins.

Liam Neeson is an experienced and decorated performer so it's problematic that he's still in Taken-mode. With a gruff American accent and one expression on his face, glum, he lends himself to a tough but highly monotonous performance. At nearly sixty-years-old, what is Neeson's interest in choosing these action roles and bit parts? Even he cannot bring credibility to embarrassing lines like, 'I haven't forgotten how to kill you asshole'. It's Neeson's movie and yet his character is surprisingly underwritten, mostly to mask the final plot twist. More appealing support is provided by Diane Kruger (Inglorious Basterds) and Bruno Ganz (Downfall). He has some of the best lines in the film, like when he describes his cigarette flavour as killing more Russians than Stalin and he brings some tension and ambiguity to the plot. The talents of Langella are just wasted, though, because he arrives very late in the film with the sole purpose of explaining the film's denouement.

Unknown is not as primitive or as offensive as Taken - it's occasionally intense and involving - but even Dr. Martin would have trouble escaping the nostalgia.






 
 



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