176 of 199 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2011
Unknown may be marketed as a sequel of sorts (at least in tone) to Liam Neeson's surprise hit of a few years back, but this is not the action packed thrill ride that Taken provided. This film is about 75% mystery/thriller and 25% action. In fact, there were only a couple of fight scenes and one neat car chase to fill in the gaps when the pace needed picking up. I agree with the other reviewer here who said they wished the twist came earlier and left more time for Neeson to kick some serious booty. Speaking of the twist, I couldn't figure it out and I felt it worked really well.
Liam Neeson once again proves to be an unlikely yet very believable action star. You can't help but root for this guy. I hope he continues with these types of roles every so often. January Jones and Diane Kruger are here to look good, but only Kruger has a character worth any interest. There is a quiet scene with Frank Langella and Bruno Ganz that stands out.
Taken or Unknown? Which one do I think is better? I'll take the action in Taken any day of the week, but I feel this movie has a stronger cast and a more interesting story. Too bad they couldn't throw just a little more Qui-Gon beatdowns into the mix. Still, this is a wild ride worth at least a rental, or maybe even a nice spot next to your copy of Taken.
104 of 125 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2011
Along with his wife, Liam Neeson is in Berlin for a biotech conference. He forgets his briefcase at the airport and realizes this when they arrive at the hotel. He takes a cab ride back to the airport to retrieve the briefcase and has an accident along the way. Four days later he awakens from his coma, after being dead for 7 minutes. He has no ID. He goes to the hotel where he sees his wife, except she is with a man with the same name as his (Martin Harris) and he claims that he is her husband and his wife likewise makes the same claim! At this point I was divided as to what is going on. Is this a Twilight Zone where a guy goes to an alternate reality? Maybe a "Dark City" experiment. Is this an elaborate hoax? If so why is his wife a part of it? Maybe they decided to remake Hauser's Memory (am I showing my age?) Or none of the above? Liam contacts the underground in Berlin to help him find out what is going on.
The acting was good, as expected. The chase and action scenes were about a C+. It could have used some good swagger music, which seems to be the norm in modern movies.
No sex or nudity. Thank you Frank Langella for keeping your pants on.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2011
This was such a good movie. Sometimes I feel cynical about movies since so many are predictable, and while this one contained the elements you'd expect - a catalyst to get the story moving, running from bad guys, a mystery that needs solving, thematic conflict and tension, and finally a resolution - I was still captivated the whole time, often on the edge of my seat, and even surprised a few times. I definitely got swept up in the story! I'll probably even watch it again. Liam hasn't failed me on-screen yet.
45 of 60 people found the following review helpful
(Note: this review has spoilers so if you don't want to know them, _don't_ read beyond the first half.)
Unknown, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and starring Liam Neeson, is a decent thriller that keeps things interesting for most, though unfortunately not all, of the film. It had the potential to be so much more, but about three-quarters of the way in it tosses that potential aside and deflates into Hollywood cliche. A large part of the blame for this must be laid at the feet of Collet-Serra (who aside from directing music videos and TV commercials, was responsible for the hideous remake of House Of Wax and the cliche-ridden Orphan) and the hack writers Oliver Butcher (Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde) and Stephen Cornwell (Marshal Law, Killing Streets), whose only real claim to fame is that he's the son of John LeCarre.
Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson), a prominent botanist, arrives in Berlin with his beautiful wife (January Jones) to attend a conference. When they reach the hotel, Harris realizes he left his briefcase back at the airport and goes back to get it, hailing a cab driven by Gina (Diane Kruger), a Bosnian immigrant working in Germany illegally. An accident on the way back to the airport sends the taxi off a bridge and into a river, causing Harris to strike his head and go unconscious. He wakes up in a hospital four days later with hazy memories and no identification, his passport and other documents apparently in the missing briefcase. The hospital, not knowing who he was, had not been able to notify anyone. Harris, worried about his wife, hurries to a reception at the conference, only to find that his wife does not recognize him and that there is another man with her (Aidan Quinn) claiming to be her husband... Dr. Martin Harris. And to his confusion and consternation, his wife is acting as if the other Harris is her husband while professing to never have seen Neeson's Harris before in her life. Furthermore, Quinn's Harris has identification as well as photos of him with his wife, and an internet check turns up Quinn's photo as Dr. Harris and not Neeson's.
From that point, Harris must try to prove who he is, to himself as much as to everyone else, and to find out why his wife is refusing to acknowledge his identity. He goes back to where his problems all began - with the cab ride back to the airport - and manages to track down Gina and convinces her to help him. Then strange things start happening. People are trying to kill him and anyone he comes into contact with. He finds messages in code that make no sense but seem to have something to do with a conspiracy. And he keeps getting flashes of memory that seem real and yet are confusing and dream-like. Just who is Martin Harris? And is he the real Harris?
The cast is generally capable. Neeson turns in his usual first-class performance while most of the other actors are workmanlike, if not exactly riveting, in theirs. Bruno Ganz however outshines everyone else in the film in a minor role as a thoroughly unapologetic and unrepentant former Stasi (East German secret police) officer Neeson seeks out to help prove who he is. Ganz (Wings of Desire, Downfall) is truly a marvel to watch, showing how a great actor can turn what might have been a trivial role into one that steals every scene he's in. Frank Langella, a very gifted actor when given the chance (Frost & Nixon, Good Night And Good Luck), is unfortunately wasted in this film. He's played so many villainous and/or creepy characters in recent years that he's become type-cast and his mere presence is a dead giveaway that his character is not on the side of the angels.
All in all, Unknown is a watchable if not particularly memorable thriller, so long as you are willing to suspend the average level of disbelief and don't mind its failure to rise above the level of usual Hollywood fare.
(*** Warning - From this point on, spoilers await ***)
A number of problems keep Unknown from living up to its potential, a big one being its sheer predictability: I had already guessed what the mystery of the two Harrises was just from seeing the trailer. It really was fairly obvious that there was no real Martin Harris and that Neeson had only been pretending to be Harris when the accident threw a monkey wrench into everything.
The other problems with the film generally fall into three categories: (1) characters behaving either stupidly or inconsistently because the plot requires it, (2) plot-holes and character actions requiring repeated suspension of disbelief, and (3) taking the easy, cliched way out to resolve things rather than going in a direction that the audience might not have expected.
In no particular order, Unknown is burdened with:
Characters with inexplicable driving skills. One has to wonder about taxi drivers - not to mention botanists - who somehow pull off stunts and maneuvers that would (and probably did) stagger entire teams of experienced stunt-men.
Head trauma as a force for good. It's been done so many times that it's almost a film cliche that a villain, having taken a good knock in the head that leaves him unable to remember who or what he really is, somehow undergoes a personality transformation that stays in place even when he finally remembers. And so Neeson's professional assassin who had no problems whatsoever killing people in the past and was on a mission to kill new targets, is now nobly scrambling to save them. The film would have been far more interesting if Neeson's personality had reverted to sociopathic killer when his memories returned. But then that wouldn't have given the cliched Hollywood ending the script was calling for.
Pointless code to be solved. The whole sub-plot around the code, written by Jones, that Neeson finds in a book he's carrying is ridiculous as the only thing they're concealing is the Latin names of two flowers. First of all, who couldn't simply remember the Latin names of two flowers? Secondly, given that Jones is using them to hack into a laptop from another laptop, why wouldn't she simply keep them on her own laptop? And why did she bother writing them in a book Neeson was carrying? Particularly given that when she needed them to hack into the target laptop, she didn't use the book at all.
Convenient loss of specific items. A large part of the plot depends on Neeson losing his identification in the accident. But it also depends on him not losing the book and on having some cash. So voila! While being fished out of the river, he somehow loses all identification but still has plenty of cash and the book with the code written in it. Why? Because the plot requires it.
Gina. So, we have a female cab driver (already a low-level probability) with fashion-model good looks (an even lower probability) who speaks perfect English (try finding one of those here!) and who continues to hang around Neeson even after it's clear that he's being pursued by professional assassins who are killing anyone Neeson comes into contact with.
People being stupid and/or incompetent because the plot demands it. Once their targets are no longer in the hotel room, Jones' assassin goes back to disarm the bomb. For what earthly reason? Because the plot demands it. And despite knowing everything about where the bomb is, how it's armed, and exactly when it's supposed to go off, she fumbles around ineptly for five minutes trying to disarm the bomb until it finally goes off, killing her and only her.
When the shaved-head assassin goes to Neeson's hospital room to finish him off, he kills two nurses in short order, snapping their necks. But for Neeson, instead of simply snapping his neck like the others, the killer decides to tie him to a gurney and then inject some kind of drug into his IV bag which will take minutes to make it down the tube into his system. Why? To make it seem like an accident? When he's already leaving two bodies very obviously murdered? Because the plot demands it, that's why.
And why do the other assassins keep trying to kill Neeson in such a way that it will look like a drug accident/overdose? They've been leaving bodies littered left and right with broken necks all over Berlin but for some reason Neeson must look like a drug death? Why? Because the plot requires Neeson must always have enough time to avoid being killed. Stupid.
And on top of it all, the whole elaborate conspiracy to kill a scientist by making it seem as if he was simply a bystander killed in a bombing attack on a rich Arab prince? Why? Again, because the plot demands it.
All in all, Unknown was an okay thriller, but only just barely. In the end it was both frustrating and disappointing. Frustrating because it had the potential to be so much more; disappointing because it settled for the safe, lame and thoroughly cliched Hollywood outcome that we've seen a thousand times before.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2012
"Unknown" is a very good mystery/suspense movie for about the first 2/3. It leads the viewer along a path of intrigue that has only one obvious answer, but that can't be it because it's, well, lame. So this nicely wrought movie is set to twist the minds of viewers everywhere right?
Well, no. The reveal is a major disappointment because the most obvious, most lame possibility actually turns out to be the right one. It's like the decided to knock off Jason Bourne and unlike those movies, it's a major let-down when the "truth" comes out. The movie does regain some momentum but I can't help feeling cheated by a movie that could have gone to greatness but instantly took a turn to the outhouse.
The cast is very good, though Aiden Quinn and January Jones are rather nodescript. There parts are integral, but small enough that Jones' plasticity and Quinn's lack of lines aren't a huge issue. Neeson is his usual good self, Diane Kruger is good as well and some of the supporting characters shine in limited exposure to add a lot of depth early in the movie. The doctor and nurse at the hospital (Karl Markovics and Eva Lobau) add a nice feeling of grounding and Bruno Ganz does also.
Still, I was very much enjoying the movie until the reveal. It makes it hard to rate so I'll go with three stars for the 2/3 I rather enjoyed.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2011
I've heard that to get a film made in Hollywood these days you need a big name star and to be able to define your project in terms of other successful movies. To that end, here we have Liam Neeson in a `melange a trois' of David Fincher's THE GAME (the score is even quoted in places) and BOURNE TRILOGY with a bit of Polanski's FRANTIC thrown in for good measure.
Despite that the result is decidedly average. It's certainly intriguing to begin with and there are a couple of genuinely tense scenes (the bit with the scissors in particular had me on the edge of my seat). Ultimately, however, the plot relies of a series of implausibilities (would Harris really rush back to the airport without uttering a single word to his wife?) and I found the denouement unsatisfying.
There's also a rather gratuitous sex-in-the-shower scene that's repeated like a motif throughout. And do we really need to see Liam Neeson with a wife who is so much younger?
Finally, if you know Berlin well you'll be utterly bemused by the continuity and how the film jumps around locations seemingly at random. There's no obvious reason for this, especially in the opening scene as the car appears to teleport back and forth along 17 Juni Strasse.
Having said all that, it was passable entertainment for a Saturday night if you're looking for a vaguely intelligent thriller.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2011
Hollywood can still make good movies, and this is an example of a very
good one. It kept my wife and I rooted to the screen all the way
through. It is interesting, suspenseful, and entertaining with enough
good, believable action to keep you on the edge of your seat.
One thing that makes it a movie to be seen is that it isn't completely
ludicrous like so many movies today that are full of plots that seem to
come from a ten year old.
It's true that you have to stretch a little but not to much so that you
can imagine something like this possibly happening. In other words,
it's all possible. There isn't anything that actually couldn't be done
in real life.
It's a good movie.