Liam Neeson goes all Jason Bourne on us and forgets who he is in this forgettable thriller.
Liam Neeson goes all Jason Bourne on us and forgets
who he is in this forgettable thriller.
Liam Neeson is a strange one in terms of star power. One minute
he is mixing with the best as one of Hollywood’s most dependably high-brow
leading men, the next he’s nothing more than a stern face upon which to hang
all manner of low-brow character flaws. So if you are wondering if Unknown is Schindler’s List (1993) or The A-Team (2010) you will discover it
taking itself as seriously as Schindler with all the gravity and believability
of A-Team, in other words utter nonsense.
Dr. Martin Harris
(Neeson) and his wife Elizabeth (Jones)
have just arrived in Berlin for a Biotechnology Summit. However, realising he
has left his briefcase at the airport, Harris is caught in a car accident and
wakes up from a coma three days later. Returning to the hotel he finds
Elizabeth unaware of who he is and another man pretending to be him (Quinn). Knowing that something is amiss
he retraces his steps to the cab driver responsible for the accident, Gina (Kruger) and together they must piece
his life back together.
At a glance
Unknown is trying to emulate the great Alfred
Hitchcock, or even the king of Hitch copycats Brian De Palma, with its foreign location, mistaken identity and
mysterious blondes. But this is no North
By Northwest (1959) or even Dressed
To Kill (1980). Instead we are thrown into a situation with a character who
we are never given the chance to connect with before he is sent on a
rollercoaster ride about as exciting as a slow-moving milk float.
By the time the
reveal of who Harris really is comes along you will find yourself shaking your
head in disbelief that the filmmakers have tried pull this off. In fact at
around the midway point Harris adopts a leather jacket and you suddenly realise
that Unknown is clearly trying to be an unofficial, read cheap cash-in, of
Neeson’s more enjoyable action romp Taken
(2008). The problem is that you’ve seen it all before and you’ve seen it done
better, namely in The Bourne Franchise.
Director Jaume Collet-Sera, who has a good
background in more atmospheric thrillers like The Orphan (2009), does his best with a clunky script. Indeed his
energy, in particular in the action sequences, is what salvages any form of
enjoyment from the film. The opening car accident is one such highlight, but
generally whenever there is a moving vehicle he seems to be in his element.
Neeson does the
gruff, confused thing in his sleep these days and here, although always
watchable, does little to expand on his repertoire. Meanwhile Diane Kruger
continues her trend of playing strong foreign women, after the likes of Pour Elle (2008) and Inglorious Basterds (2009), but is
never given the chance to break out of a fairly rudimentary character. The real
let down though is January Jones. Normally her cold mannerisms lend a sexual
charm to her roles, in particular TV’s Mad
Men and this year’s X-Men; First
Class, however, here she brings about as much charisma as a tired jellyfish.
There is a moment
in Unknown when a very prominent piece of graffiti reads ‘Oz’ but the film
lacks any heart, courage or brains for this to be anything other than
coincidence. Despite some solid action scenes Unknown is a by the numbers
thriller that fails to truly thrill. Like its title it is probably best left
Unknown and unheard of.