8 Apr

Title: Unknown
Jaume Collet-Serra
Writers: Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell, based on the novel by Didier van Cauwelaert
Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Frank Langella, Bruno Ganz
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, some intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sexual content
113 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:


Here is Unknown, a film that many people are seeing as some direct relative of Taken, that 2009 action thriller also starring Liam Neeson that was a smash hit, making over $225 million worldwide and that introduced Mr. Neeson as an action star. And while Unknown isn’t officially related to Taken, it still is a pretty awesome action thriller that serves to really cement Mr. Neeson’s status as a kickass action star. Not to mention the posters for both films look quite similar.

This one isn’t as great as Taken was, I mean, that film that came out two years ago was seriously fantastic, had a great pacing and an even better performance by Mr. Neeson, who we all knew was a terrific actor, but who surprised us coming out as the unlikely action movie hero at 55. This one still has Mr. Neeson doing a great job, but the film, even though has a pretty neat premise, ultimately wasn’t as involving, probably because the intriguing premise was played too far out and ended up looking way too implausible for us to really connect.

But that’s really the only problem I had with Unknown. I mean, the first half of it you get really involved with these characters, but there’s only so much cuckoo stuff you’ll let a film get away with until it loses your involvement, and that’s what happens in the second half. However, the performances are still rock solid, and the action is pretty damn neat, and the intrigue, as implausible as it may be, still makes for a damn fine mystery.

Here’s what I can tell you about the plot for Unknown without really giving much of its surprises away. You have a guy, who slips into a coma after a car accident and then wakes up only to find that no one really remembers him and that, to make matters worse, there’s someone else using his identity, living his life, living with his wife, and that everybody believes that man to be him. That’s a pretty bizarre scenario to create and to inhabit, but because it’s Mr. Neeson playing the confused botanist, this one doesn’t fall flat on its face from that very first scene of revelation.

But even though, as I said, the implausibility of it all does get to a point in which you just don’t love it as much anymore, there’s a whole lot of other things to distract you from it. Mainly, very well crafted action pieces, whether it’s big explosions or thrilling car chases, Unknown has a bit of everything, and every bit of it works. And even if the action doesn’t do it for you, you have a killer cast that damn better will. Mr. Neeson isn’t the only terrific actor on display here, you also have Diane Kruger and January Jones, one just as beautiful as the other, as well as Bruno Ganz and Frank Langella, so yeah, there’s some quality acting here.

Ms. Jones, she who’s pitch-perfect as Betty Draper on the TV masterpiece that is Mad Men (January 2012 honestly can come soon enough), plays Mr. Neeson’s wife here. The one that’s coming along with him to a summit in which he’s scheduled to be present. And fair enough, they get to their destination, Berlin, but he leaves his briefcase at the airport and must return for it, and the taxi he takes back is the one in which the aforementioned accident takes place. He then goes to the conference once he wakes up from the coma, and there he founds that no one recognizes him, and that there’s someone else there with his identity, with his wife at hand.

You can definitely imagine what happens next, because you know Mr. Neeson will never play a character that just crumbles and gets depressed under such extreme situations. He plays characters that won’t stop until they make things right. So this 0ne will then proceed to go all Taken-meets-TheBourneIdentity on us. And it does so in all the right ways, because Mr. Neeson is too good an actor and he makes us believe in him and his quest, he’s just a smart actor, and the way he plays with his character in this one, navigating the streets of Berlin with the help of Ms. Kruger’s character, is pretty damn effective.

And really, any success this film has can be attributed to Mr. Neeson, he’s the film’s strongest link, and he’s the one that carries it to its solid end result. The director, Spaniard Jaume Collet-Serra, isn’t as steady-handed as he should have been, and there were quite a lot of scenes and elements, I think, he could have handled way better. But his star doesn’t let him fail, and as such this is the best film he’s done to date, and considering the three others films he had done have been House of Wax, Goal II: Living the Dream and Orphan at least we can say that the guy has been getting better with every movie. And at least he handled the twists of the film, in a way that was still both surprising and entertaining, which is the only thing this film really needed in order to succeed considering Mr. Neeson was the lead.

And it may sound like I’m kissing Mr. Neeson’s ass quite a bit here. And, hell, if I am it’s for a reason, the man’s just a sensational actor, and this new identity he has found for himself late in his career, of the smart man’s action hero, is one that he’s perfected in just two films. So here’s to Liam Neeson, and to hoping the guy will star in at least one action thriller with a one word title and a man-on-a-mission plot every couple of years.

Grade: B+


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