Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I think I liked this movie a little better when it was called… Oh… dang. I can’t tell you what it used to be called because that would just give away everything. I mean everything. And anybody who mentions the title of the movie with a similar theme to it, and you haven’t seen this movie yet and you plan to see this movie… then that person is a certifiable asshole. And that’s not me, at least not today. Anyway the name of this movie is ‘Unknown’ and we have Liam Neeson headlining which is always good thing. We have Frank Langella showing up for a spell which is always a good thing and we have Diane Kruger going braless which simply cannot be construed as a bad thing. They do sell brassieres in Berlin, right?

As the story goes Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) and his lovely young wife Elizabeth (January Jones) are off to Berlin for a genetics conference and also to have a little fun on the side. Unfortunately Dr. Harris forgets his briefcase at the airport and jumps into an available cab driven by the lovely Gina (Kruger) to retrieve it. There’s an accident, Dr. Harris bumps his head, Gina saves him from drowning but runs off for reasons we learn about later and Dr. Harris is in a coma for four days.

When Dr. Harris regains consciousness he is a little concerned because nobody has come to see him, he hasn’t been reported missing and his wife is nowhere to be found. His memory is a little fragmented but he does know who he is and he is slowly remembering why he is in Germany in the first place.

He goes to the hotel that he and his wife are registered, his wife pretends not to recognize him, there’s another man pretending to be Dr. David Harris (Aidan Quinn) and he is rudely escorted from the premises.

So what’s going on exactly? A kind nurse directs Dr. Harris to old East German spy named Jurgen (Bruno Ganz) who still has a few connections and might be able to find out a few things but he informs David that he needs to track down his taxi driver who might have some critical information. David finds her, convinces her to help and that decision may be the worst decision that Gina, the illegal immigrant from Bosnia, has ever made, as the game is afoot.

Somebody is definitely trying to kill Dr. Harris, but why? He’s just a geneticist here on a conference to give a speech. What is there to gain? And we’ll let it go at that because this one here is all about the mystery and it would be in bad taste to give it away even a little bit.

About that mystery that we are not going to give away… it’s not particularly earth shattering since we’ve seen it before but director Jaume Collet-Serra does a good job in concealing it and he also does a fine job in making this mystery more relevant as you go over the things that we’ve seen prior to discovering this mystery. If you’ve seen the director’s previous film ‘Orphan’ then you know that hiding things is something this director does remarkably well.

The thing is, at least from the vantage point of my theater seat, getting to the revelation of the mystery was a bit of a chore. The majority of the film was gloomy, staid, almost lifeless in a sense with a color palette awash in grays and blacks. Watching Liam Neeson mope around Berlin for the first hour of the film got a little tiresome after a while and since we are experiencing his dilemma from his point of view and know less than he does, there was really not a lot to grab a hold of to keep me engaged in this tired, drab and miserable existence that we are stuck in the middle of.

Eventually, by the time Diane Kruger’s character of Gina gets completely integrated into the film, now our sad and sour film turns into an action thriller with fist fights and car chases and all of the other stuff we probably should’ve been seeing a little earlier instead of watching Liam Neeson be sad. We are a little curious where Gina learned to drive so amazing well and where she picked up these mad fighting skills… being raised in Bosnia must be some kind of training ground… but we’re not going ask those questions. In fact, the fewer questions you do ask, your enjoyment of ‘Unknown’ increases exponentially. You see once we learn the ‘big secret’ some of the things that were going on, when you travel back in your mind’s eye, make a heckuva lot a sense, but other key elements become even more confusing. I imagine when you create a film such as this one, a film that is filled with twists and turns and misdirection, it gets increasingly difficult to keep all of your ducks in a coherent and orderly row, and this movie doesn’t really do this all that well.

Ultimately I did dig this movie because there were some cool things in it, say like observing Bruno Ganz and Frank Langella spar acting-wise a little bit was good to watch and the action was tight, but there were some things in it that just didn’t work for me. Particularly the end, and I mean the very end. The character of Gina has to resolve a few issues with Martin, at least I would think she would have some issues to resolve once she learns the truth but hey… happy ending, roll the credits, go home. I don’t know about that in this one.

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