Monday, 30 May 2011

Film Review: Unknown

First, he travelled to Paris in order to reclaim his daughter from the Albanian mafia in the overlooked yet brilliant Taken. Now Liam Neeson is back, continuing his European tour rampaging through the streets of Berlin in Unknown. The man should really be commended for reinventing himself as the most violent middle-aged man in Hollywood.

Martin Harris (Neeson) is a biochemist just arrived in Berlin to give a keynote presentation at a major science conference. When his cab crashes into the river Spree, he awakes to find that his wife (Jones) no longer knows who he is and some ominous men are trying to kill him. With no identification in a strange city, Martin enlists the help of an ex-Stasi spy (Ganz) and cab driver Gina (Kruger) to help recapture his identity.

You'd be right to garner that Unknown is in the same vein as Taken; hell even the movie posters are almost identical. But this is more of a poor man's Bourne Identity. That's not to say that Unknown is a bad effort; it's very good at keeping you on your toes, frequently revealing new pieces of information which throw your previous theories enjoyably into the air. However, when the film is forced to finally reveal its secrets you can't help but feel that this has been done before and is consequently all a little vacuous.

While it isn't quite as well executed as Taken, at least Unknown is never dull. However, its downfall is where it tries to be a bit too clever to the point where plot holes beckon and the film stutters in places with pacing problems. In contrast, Taken succeeded in being more fluid with an altogether simpler and universally appealing plot; father rescues teenage daughter against a backdrop of teenage prostitution.

But hats off to Neeson, who really propels this film forward. While Kruger turns in a strong performance and the German supporting cast adds an element of realism to proceedings, it is Neeson's gravitas and conviction that provides the glue which binds the film together. If you enjoyed the antics of Jason Bourne and are clamouring for something similar, Unknown will transiently fill the void.