Feb 16, 2011

Review: Unknown

If only he had known.
Hereafter to be known as film #2 in which Liam Neeson means the business, Unknown follows Dr. Martin Harris, who arrives in Berlin with his wife, Liz (January Jones, she of the icy tones), to give a presentation at a conference (in some sort of genetic biology?).

On arrival, the viewer is treated to visuals of Berlin as a picturesque, snowy enclave--it's as if the actors have been placed in a snow globe and surrounded by its smooth, glassy exterior. If only this were a fitting description for the overall feel of the film. Alas, it feels as if the players in the snow globe have been shaken, vigorously, and are now set to stumbling about, bumping into the walls in confusion.

An errant suitcase triggers a confusing set of events; Dr. Harris is involved in a spectacular taxi crash off a bridge and wakes up in hospital four days later, unable to remember what happened. He finds his wife; she mysteriously can't remember who he is, or that she's married to him. It appears an impostor is seeking to take the place of Dr. Martin Harris; Liam Neeson ain't havin' none of that. He seeks help in the form of taxi driver and saviour, Gina (Diane Kruger as a Bosnian immigrant - oh brother) and someone who 'finds people' insert meaningful glance here.

At first, the film seems every bit the worthy, intellectual thriller. The emotional story, too, of an everyman getting shafted by some sort of top secret organisation, encourages a keen sense of empathy and allows the audience to feel what he's going through. It seems his mission, more clearly than anything, is to pick apart those things that are coicidence, chance--and those that are clearly malice--cunning, calculated trickery.
Unfortunately, the reveal leads us to an altogether unsavoury conclusion; you, audience, have been had. What's that? This brilliant scientist also has mad skills in stunt driving and enjoys a good eye gouge as much as the next psychopath? At a certain point, the viewer doesn't need to put these oh-so-shifty events into the 'extreme circumstances' category; major disappointment factor just leveled up to ten.
Unknown shall also be the first film committed to our memory where a major realisation came; Liam Neeson doesn't do accents, he does the Liam Neeson and pronounces words differently according to his nationality. All jokes aside though, he is master of the commanding brow and piercing gaze.We just wish in this case it were for the hardier, emotionally-charged scenarios in which he excels.

The usually interesting, talented cast of Unknown attempted to step into under-written roles in this two-bit actioner. Mission not accomplished. 


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