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A movie directed by Jaume Collet-Serra.

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An "Identity Crisis" Packed With Action-Thrills And Questions...

  • Feb 20, 2011
After the simple and yet engaging action-thriller, Liam Neeson returns to the genre with director Jaume Collet-Serra’s (Orphan) “Unknown”. The film is based on a French novel by Didier Van Cauweleat called “Out of My Head” and has been given the staples of a Hollywood actioner with the elements of a Hitchcock tale. It is relentless, entertaining, suspenseful despite the fact that it may have overplayed the aces in its hand. It also helps when you have Liam Neeson in the lead as he manages to grab the viewer by the throat to keep things interesting.

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) along with his beautiful wife, Liz (January Jones) travels to Berlin to attend a world-eco friendly summit when Martin forgets the briefcase containing their passports. Catching a cab to try and retrieve the briefcase, the cab is involved in an accident that leaves the good doctor comatose for several days. Waking up, Martin finds that the world seems to have changed, and even his wife doesn’t recognize him and his own identity has been taken by another man (Aidan Quinn). Confused and afraid, but determined to find out the truth, Martin enlists the aid of a former German spy (Bruno Ganz), as he seeks out Gina (Diane Kruger), the cabbie who saved his life to try and piece together the truth…But the truth may be something Martin may not want to know.

                    Liam Neeson in "Unknown."

                   Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger in "Unknown."

I guess as with “Orphan”, the direction knew how to keep things moving, interesting and intriguing despite the fact that the script feels like it has been swamped with too many elements that threatened to lose its focus. We’ve all seen the formula that “Unknown” pitches to the viewer in films such as the “Bourne Identity” and even the 1991 thriller “Shattered”. The direction focuses on the intrigue as Martin searches, he finds that he himself is almost a walking question mark and the more he digs, the more questions he unearths that finally the truth may indeed threaten his life and those around him. Yes, Collet-Serra knows how to create tension; however, clichéd some of the elements are, it works as a thriller. The viewer is immersed with cloak and dagger devices, grand potential schemes, car chases, some fights, and even some flashbacks as Martin goes around trying to piece together the remnants of his identity. Martin travels along with Gina around the streets of Berlin, using the internet and as he follows certain hunches while he remains a belief on his wife’s credibility.

                            January Jones, Rainer Brock, Aidan Quinn and Liam Neeson in "Unknown."

                           Liam Neeson and January Jones in "Unknown."

                           Bruno Ganz in "Unknown."

Yes, the film generates tension and thrills, I have to say it can be entertaining. However, once you stop and take a breather, you will notice the numerous holes that the script has all about it. They aren’t that huge really, but it seems to have certain factors that feel a little overdone truth be told. I guess in some ways, I know thrillers are supposed to be relentless to keep everyone on their feet, but I thought the film should’ve known when to quit while it was ahead. I felt the film struggling to keep the Hitchcock-like puzzle alive while stooping to the devices that make an action film. It does work, but I felt that some scenes became a little unnecessary and some even threatened to become overcooked and pull the focus out of the film’s main premise. I cannot explain this without spoiling the film, but I also found it hard to believe that one can easily have a change of heart just like that. Also, the people behind Martin’s misery appear well-organized and yet, they forgot to do one simple thing. This somewhat dulled the film’s impact on me, not to say that it wasn’t thrilling, but the script needed some cleaning up.

                         Liam Neeson and Frank Langella in "Unknown."

                        Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger in "Unknown."

Now for what made the film work, Liam Neeson is pretty effective as he travels the streets of Berlin in an ala-”Taken” mode. Martin is a man with relentless determination and Neeson fit the role perfectly. He captures the drama and urgency of his character that even though I was seeing plot holes all over the place, I was almost willing to ignore all of them. Bruno Ganz does make a short appearance as the German who aids Martin, and I found his character filled with underlying layers that I enjoyed his limited screen time. Diane Kruger and January Jones were both there to add to some eye candy, and while their characters were a little flat, I didn’t mind their presence at all. Frank Langella makes a commanding appearance even though I didn’t like the roots of his character (he was also almost shamefully underused). Langella always had the power to grab attention and this film is no different.

I suppose “Unknown” can be seen as flawed if you are an experienced movie watcher but I will have to admit, there were enough thrills, action and suspense (however a bit stiff) to keep the film moving fast and quick. It does cave in under its own weight as I thought some devices were unnecessary but I guess if your mindset is to see an action film that moves fast, and unrelenting, then this film will entertain. “Unknown” does feel a little too excessive the way it puts in device, twists and surprises one after another, and once you get pass the halfway mark, you’ll know where it is headed. I still found good entertainment with this film. It wasn’t exactly inventive nor inspired once it put the puzzle together, but I guess I am an action junkie, and Liam Neeson just pulls the film out of the fire.

Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "Unknown."  Teaser poster art for "Unknown."


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June 30, 2011
I don't know where I was when this one came out; I am just seeing the ads for the dvd LOL - I can't wait to rent this one; I loved Liam Neeson in "Taken" -- my daughter and I have seen it 100 times. I'm glad you liked this one cause I would have been disappointed if you didn't! Thanks again Woo...
June 03, 2011
Sounds interesting. I wonder if some of the holes were "lost in translation." I am curious about the novel now too!
February 21, 2011
Nice review. I was hanging out with a friend last nite whom I hadn't seen in 3 months and he suggested we go. It was decent and no complaints but just not my kind of film. I can see how people would enjoy it though. ;-)
February 21, 2011
I agree. Once you stop and take a breather, you'll find that the movie had several missteps but it maintained a pace and intrigue that kept me interested. I liked this one, but granted, it wasn't perfect. You should see "The Sunset Limited" in HBO, it was surprisingly good!
February 20, 2011
Nice review. I didn't even realize Langella was in this. Almost makes me want to see it, though after seeing Neeson in "Taken" and "Chloe", I'm not sure how many more of these thrillers I can handle. He keeps playing these paternal figures with a dark side and that gets old quick. The premise also reminds me of "The Forgotten" with Julianne Moore. I'm beginning to see a real trend in the whole "I am me or do I just think I'm me" kind of films. I'll probably check it out on DVD.
February 20, 2011
Yeah, I understand. was Chloe really that good? I still need to see it...
February 20, 2011
Parts of it were cliche, but the performances, the direction, and the ambiguous ending were great.
February 20, 2011
I love Berlin! It was fun when I was there during the World Cup a few years back! Sounds like a good film!
February 20, 2011
I think you will enjoy this one. It was energetic and the cinematography displays the best parts of its setting. How long did you stay in Berlin?
February 20, 2011
Berlin, Hamburg, Estonia, etc... Berlin? A week or so. It was great! So many men from all over the world, LOL...
February 20, 2011
I think oyu should do a write up on that: "So many men from all over the world.." LOL!
February 21, 2011
About what? Testosterone? LOL!
February 22, 2011
Grrrrrr.... btw, you may be interested in Zhang Yimou's remake of the Coen bros.' Blood Simple... (hint)
February 20, 2011
All I could see was "Taken" when I watched the trailer.
February 20, 2011
Yeah, I can definitely see that. Neeson exudes that aura throughout the film.
More Unknown (2011 movie) reviews
review by . July 14, 2011
Unknown might be the most preposterous movie of a year that most films decided to stop suspending disbelief and let it rest on the floor for a while. Common sense is left to drown in a sea of movie cliches and utter lunacy while plot holes make a Swiss cheese out of the script.      **THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD! **      Ok, if you know the movie's main trick, namely that it's a rip-off of Total Recall, you'll know that the entire film …
review by . July 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**1/2 out of ****     It doesn't take a person of extreme intelligence to realize that Liam Neeson is a registered ass-kicker. The 59-year-old actor has appeared in many very cool, and many very mediocre films; but he's almost always guaranteed to put on the best show of the entire product. "Unknown", his newest movie, is really nothing more-or-less different than the usual Neeson walk-about. The actor has a problem he must overcome. In the end, he ends up serving up sweet justice. …
review by . February 19, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Unknown is an utterly preposterous film, but if you grant its assumptions, it will keep you engaged and take you on a thrilling ride. It stars Liam Neeson as Dr. Martin Harris, who travels to Berlin with his wife, Liz (January Jones), to speak at a biotechnology conference and meet a botanist who has made an important breakthrough. A cab ride back to the airport goes wrong; a truck loses its shipment, causing the cab to swerve off the road, zoom …
Quick Tip by . July 28, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Unfortunately, unlike his exhilarating revenge/rescue film Taken, this rather predictable and derivative action film starring Liam Neeson has little to offer in the way of originality or believability. The plot is outrageously silly and is very much reminiscent of The Fugitive and The Bourne Identity.      The story revolves around a man who comes to Germany with his wife to attend a scientific summit only to end up being involved in a car crash. When he comes to from a coma, …
review by . February 18, 2011
Two Jews On Film Review 'UNKNOWN'
What if you know deep down, who you really were, but couldn't prove it?  And what if someone else - someone you didn't know- claimed to be you and everyone believed him? That is the dilemma Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) faces in the film 'Unknown'.      Dr. Martin Harris, a botanist, arrives with his wife, Liz (January Jones) at the Hotel Adion in Berlin for a biotechnology summit.  When Martin realizes that his briefcase was left behind at the airport, …
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About this movie


Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) awakens after a car accident in Berlin to discover that his wife, Liz (January Jones), suddenly doesn't recognize him and another man (Aidan Quinn) has assumed his identity. Ignored by disbelieving authorities and hunted by mysterious assassins, he finds himself alone, tired, and on the run. Aided by an unlikely ally, Gina (Diane Kruger), Martin plunges headlong into a deadly mystery that will force him to question his sanity, his identity, and just how far he is willing to go to uncover the truth. In the end it is revealed that Martin Harris is actually a part of an assassination team. He loses his memory and begins to believe his cover after getting hurt in the car crash. The impostor is actually his backup on the team.
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Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Release Date: 18 February 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 113 min
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