Cast: Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson), Gina (Diane Kruger), Elizabeth Harris (January Jones), Martin B (Aidan Quinn), Ernst Jurgen (Bruno Ganz), Rodney Cole (Frank Langella), Professor Bressler (Sebastian Koch)
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Theatrical release: 01/00/1900 DVD Date: 06/21/2011
Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 113 minutes
Note(s): Screenplay adapted from the 2003 novel Hors de moi (Out of My Head) by Didier Van Cauwelaert.
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Review: Based on a French novel, Unknown disappoints on several levels, not the least of which is a muddled storyline that teases viewers with its potential but delivers only in the final few frames.
The movie opens with Dr. Martin Harris and his wife arriving in Berlin for a biotechnology conference. When Martin realizes he has left his briefcase at the airport, he catches a taxi from their hotel only to be involved in an accident that puts him in the hospital. Waking several days later, with little memory of what happened, he returns to the hotel, where his wife denies knowing who he is and more remarkably, a different man, also calling himself Dr. Martin Harris, claims to be her husband. Frantic to know what's going on, he decides to retrace his steps from the day of the accident, and sets out to find the taxi driver, who saved his life.
Good premise for a thriller; poorly executed.
For starters, Liam Neeson seems hopelessly miscast here. He never makes a connection with the viewer, and while he's supposed to be playing the part of a man confused about his circumstances, he actually seems more like an actor confused by the silly script in which he's acting. Almost as bad is January Jones as his wife, who can't seem to strike the right note as a woman perplexed by the actions of a man claiming to be her husband. The best performance of the bunch is by Diane Kruger as the taxi driver.
A more serious flaw is that the screenplay is incredibly flat and uninspired, being little more than a series of loosely connected scenes. I'm guessing that someone thought that by not revealing too much they were building suspense to a surprise ending, but nothing could be further from the truth. With that said, the twist at the end is sadly predictable but the twist on the twist is rather unexpected and a pleasant surprise. Still, it's far too little, far too late, with many viewers probably not caring any longer what happens to whom for whatever reason.
It's always disappointing when a good idea for a thriller is mishandled. Unfortunately Unknown is an example of such, though it's not a total loss. It's probably worth a rental for most of us, with only die-hard Liam Neeson fans opting to purchase a copy, just so they can say their collection is complete.