Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Action, Suspense
Opens locally Friday, February 18th, 2011 (check showtimes)
Run Time: 1 hour 49 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aiden Quinn, Frank Langella
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax, Orphan)
The word "forgettable" is an apt description when referring to the film "Unknown." Our main character forgets who he is, and what he's doing. It is a familiar theme in films of this genre, that we know nothing about our hero, and his true identity is slowly revealed as the movie progresses. In movies like this, you have to pay attention to every detail, as each little nuance will eventually become significant.
The Plot. Neeson's character, Dr. Martin Harris, is in Berlin for a bio-chemistry summit of some kind. He is arriving at his hotel with his wife, played by the lovely January Jones of TV's Mad Men. When Martin forgets his luggage, he hops in a taxi, but is involved in an accident that lands him in the hospital. Once awake, nobody seems to know who he is, and he finds that his wife is also acting (?) as if she doesn't know him either. He even finds that she's at the summit with a Dr. Martin Harris, who is clearly not the real Martin Harris...right?
And You Are??? The trouble with "Unknown," is that nothing adds up, and nothing quite makes sense. It's nearly impossible to go into without spoiling the film's few twists and surprises, a practice that I try to avoid at all costs. Liam Neeson does his best with the material, and he has a quality about him that makes him right for this kind of action role, not unlike his recent film, Taken.
Unlike other films of this kind like The Bourne Identity, the action sequences in Unknown are weak and flimsy and altogether forgettable. When nothing at all is revealed about Neeson's character for the first 30 minutes or so, I just wasn't interested enough to even care if he was Dr. Martin Harris or not.
A Convenient Truth. Only in the movies are there convenient developments that move the plot along. When our hero is tied up and in need of escape, there just happens to be scissors just out of his reach. When he drives aimlessly down a busy street, he just happens to see his wife eating dinner through a window. The whole thing just reeked of laziness, and nothing seemed to ever really be at stake, since we aren't in on what the hell is going on in the first place.
Flashes of Fun. By the time Frank Langella appears late in the film, there were enough interesting developments to move this movie from sub-par to mediocre. Langella chews up the scenery and must love playing the bad guy, as he has in at least a dozen of his recent films. But again, the plot gets in the way and spoils the time.
By the time the bad guys catch up to Martin, I thought I was watching an episode of Scooby Doo...the evil henchman reveals his entire plan to the hero, and then leaves to let his henchman kill the poor bastard. Hmmm...guess who wins in a battle between nameless henchman and star of film?
Out of Sight, Out of Mind. Without spoiling the plot, after you watch the film ask yourself this: If Harris truly uncovers the truth about his character, wouldn't he be motivated to carry out his original plan? Why the change of heart?
It is unknown why Unknown didn't take some different turns, as there are a few paths this film could have gone down that would have made a better film. In the end, it is just a forgettable entry into the action genre. Misusing talent like Liam Neeson and January Jones is the film's real enigma.
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