Liam Neeson is the new action guy. It turns out he can play almost any role, because his face is kind of hard to read. In Unknown, we really don’t know who he is, and neither does he.
Neeson plays Dr. Martin Harris, who has just arrived with his wife in Berlin to speak at an International Biotech conference. When they get to his hotel, Martin realizes he left an important briefcase at the airport. He rushes back to the airport in a cab and on his return to the hotel, gets in a wreck. He’s in a coma for four days.
When Martin wakes up, everything is changed. First of all, he barely remembers who he is. But things get really weird when he finds out his wife doesn’t know who he is either and another man is standing in who says he’s Martin Harris. Our main character has become unknown. Or an unknown. Whatever.
First of all, this is a really well thought out thriller. The Berlin location is fantastic, and the effects and plot are captivating and convincing. The only problem I had with the movie was the title. Right after I saw Unknown, I mentioned the movie with Liam Neeson to my brother-in-law Randy, but I couldn’t remember its name. Really. Randy kept asking, “What’s the name of the movie?” and I kept saying, “I don’t know.” I was sort of like Liam Neeson. Or maybe the name Unknown just lends itself to forgetfulness.
In any case, the story is very tense and will keep you guessing. Basically Harris’s only hope of find out what’s going on is to find the driver of the cab he was in, but she’s disappeared since the wreck. However, because she’s played by the very well-known actress Diane Kruger (National Treasure) you know she’s going to show up again. There are a few other clues or miscues that threaten to give things away, but I managed to stay as confused as Neeson/Harris for most of the film.
Some folks might think that the end of the movie gets a little out of hand in its resolution, but let’s face it, you don’t get into a Twilight Zone plot without something screwy going on. I will just say that there is no voodoo or sorcery to make things work, and Harris isn’t dreaming. He just picked a really bad time to get partial amnesia. It could happen to anybody. I think it’s Liam Neeson’s deer in the headlights stare and his monotone voice that make him so good for a role like this. You don’t know if this guy is lying or telling the truth. But somehow along the way, we develop a little sympathy for Martin, and that keeps the story interesting until the end.
Unknown isn’t a heavy movie or a particularly violent one. There’s a car chase that goes on a little too long, and Diane Kruger’s Bosnian accent is a little thick, but otherwise it’s all good escapist fun. It reminded me a little of the things Alfred Hitchcock used to think up, and had a little of the feel of an older movie. There’s not all the bad-boy joking around that seems to show up in thriller movies these days.
Unknown is rated PG-13, mainly for some blurry shower scenes between Martin and his wife. These are mostly flashbacks and might give kids the wrong idea about marriage, but that’s Hollywood for you. Older kids will probably be intrigued by the plot, especially if they’ve never heard of Rod Serling. And if you haven’t heard or Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock, then get ready. By the end of this film you’ll have forgotten its name.