Unknown Movie Review
Looking to take advantage of the same magic that propelled 2008's Taken to shocking box office results, Unknown puts Liam Neeson back in Europe - this time in Germany - trying to hunt down the people responsible for stealing his wife, and his identity. It may not be a sequel, but it sure seems like one - that is, until the movie kicks into high gear.
In Unknown, Neeson stars as Dr. Martin Harris, who has arrived in Berlin with his wife Elizabeth (January Jones) to attend a biotech conference. But after a freak car accident leaves his memory fractured, he quickly comes to the startling realization that his wife no longer remembers him, another man has assumed his identity and everyone thinks he's crazy.
Unknown is one of those many seemingly derivative thrillers with a strange hook that has the potential to be good, but has even more potential to go horribly, horribly wrong. Movies like Unknown rely heavily on whatever twist the filmmakers have schemed up, and if that twist isn't good or plausible, the whole movie collapses like a house of cards.
Though some reviews suggest there are critics who disagree with me, Unknown survives this important test and then some, resulting in an entertaining, engaging and ultimately exciting thriller that will satisfy action fans until some of the bigger fare is released later in the year.
The movie isn't groundbreaking, the twists nothing we haven't seen before, but Unknown keeps you guessing more often than not. I predicted some of the turns but not all of them, and the ones I didn't were believable enough for a thriller of this nature.
Neeson is effective in the lead. He's not as good as he was in Taken (or, of course, with more dramatic roles), but he proves once again that he has the presence to assume any role handed to him. Diane Kruger is quite good as well. Oddly enough, despite the film's setting and Kruger's German roots, she doesn't play a German.
Jones is less impressive, as is Aidan Quinn (who plays the other Dr. Martin Harris), though this is primarily due to a lack of character depth. Both of their characters are important pieces to the puzzle but aren't fleshed out to the degree they needed to be. SPOILER. The movie would have also been served well to offer up a final confrontation between Neeson and Jones.
Unknown's weakness is that it felt long, especially in the first half. At nearly two hours, it's a bulky thriller, and unlike the streamlined Taken, Unknown could have shed a few pounds to be faster, leaner and more suspenseful. The movie is never boring, but director Jaume Collet-Serra could have amped up the tension considerably in a few scenes.
Still, Unknown is a good movie. Not a great one, but a good one, and that means a lot when audiences haven't been given many worthwhile new movies to see since the beginning of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.