Plot: Un-convincing American average-joe Liam Neeson is pulled from a watery grave by pretty Bosnian taxi-driver Diane Kruger, losing 4 days of his life and slowly finding that no one (not even his wife) knows who he is, before proceeding to be chased by gun-toting Germans through the underground streets of wintery Berlin.
My Thoughts: Date back 10 years or so and cinemas and multiplexes across the globe were filled with fast-paced action thrillers about every-day bankers, scientists and businessmen losing their lives, wives and minds, forcing them out into the cold, stale night to forcefully bring the frightening situation back to normality. Scoot back to present day and we find ourselves in a sea of sequels and remakes with thrill-king Harrison Ford no where to be seen, eagerly awaiting a fresh, new and original picture to finally land on our patient eyelids. Step forward ‘Unknown’, a movie promising to do just that, but falling so horrifically short.
For starters, the clearly recycled plot leaves nothing to be desired for, forcing echoes of Ludlum’s Bourne Identity and many less-known 90’s thrillers straight to the front of the mind. Throw in Liam Neeson (still clearly in the shadow of 2008’s action-hit ‘Taken’) to fill the clearly worn and undesirable boots of Mr Ford and pepper with some hazardously beautiful actresses (represented here by January Jones and Diane Kruger) and we have the classic mystery formula for every balls-out thriller in the last 20 years, which simply isn’t enough for a film in today’s unstable cinematic climate. The people want excitement and originality and ‘Unknown’ provides too little of either.
Neeson’s confused tourist is solid, lapping together well with Kruger’s likable immigrant, but Jones’ elegantly dangerous damsel is stiff and un-willing, providing plenty of sugar, but not-much-else. Screen legends Frank Langella and Bruno Ganz are painfully mis-used and the simply naked script leaks unfulfilling cliches left, right and centre. The hero of the piece is surely director Jaume Collet-Sera, unknown craftsman of last year’s sleeper-horror-hit ‘Orphan’. His frenzied touch provides frankly glistening shots during the early moments of Neeson’s confusion, but does become far too diluted towards the end however.
Based off of marketing alone, ‘Unknown’ is a movie which clearly sees itself as a serious mystery of a man wishing to take back his life which appears lost, the poster attempting to capitalize on Neeson’s previous success, placing a gun in his hand and a cold, determined look upon his face. In reality, neither of these are true, the gun never present (nor fired) and the emotions nothing but faint anger and confusion. Lots and lots of confusion.
Sliding dramatically into its twisty conclusion, the film changes pace drastically, rolling the confused American into a different beast entirely and pushing forward some much-needed, but blatantly forced action sequences. The heavily hinted twist eventually reveals its un-intelligent and outlandishly silly feathers questioning the thoughts of the overly-talented cast. Finally, the explosive climax leaves nothing but a dirty taste upon the tongue and would leave those who fell asleep at the beginning (and believe me, it’s very easy to) awakening to pandemonium and questioning whether they were still in the same film, simply because the writers’ messy concluding leaves you feeling as if the filmmakers had made two mediocre shorts and celo-taped them together… badly.
As the serious thriller it longs to be, ‘Unknown’ is garbage, but with mostly watchable performances and the opening hour providing a good, contemplating storyline, it’s worth the time, just not the money.
In a few words, its a badly-made Bourne meets a badly-made Taken with unpleasing results.