18 jun. 2011

My Review: Unknown (5/10)

¨Do you know what it feels like to become insane? It`s a war between being told who you are and knowing who you are. Which do you think wins?¨

I really wanted to like this movie after watching Liam Neeson single handedly conquer Europe in Taken, and I had my hopes up for another one of his one-titled-European-action-thriller films. Unknown however is no Taken. Neeson plays kind of an opposite character this time because he spends most of the time confused and helpless while in Taken he was always smooth and in control of the situation. He was sort of a James Bond, while in Unknown he is more of a Jason Bourne, although way less gifted. This film was directed by Spanish filmmaker, Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan and House of Wax) and at some points during so many twists and turns I think he loses the direction. I really didn’t see the twists coming and thought the movie would take a completely different turn, but each time I thought the movie was going to go a certain way the film caught me by surprise again. For this I have to give the film credit, but the problem for me is that I didn’t really like the path Collet decided to take. Liam Neeson is a great actor, but I enjoy him much more when he is in control of the situation. There is something about him that just exhales confidence. Unknown is based on Didier Van Cauwelaert`s novel: Out of My Head, and it was adapted by relatively unknown screenwriters Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell. I don’t know how the story played out in the novel, but in the screenplay some of the dialogue felt a bit forced, and some situations felt unbelievable.

The movie opens as Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) arrives at Berlin along with his wife, Elizabeth (January Jones). He`s travelled for a very important scientific conference, and plans out his schedule in Berlin while taking a taxi to the hotel. Once there he realizes that he has left a briefcase in the airport so takes a taxi back before getting a chance to tell his wife where he`s heading. On the way to the airport he has an accident and the taxi ends up running off a bridge and landing in the water. Martin bumps his head and is saved by the taxi driver, Gina (Diane Kruger). He awakens from a coma after four days and is surprised his wife isn’t by his side. Doctors say that he wasn’t carrying any identification so that they couldn’t contact any family members. The first thing he does is go back to the hotel and look for Liz, but once there he finds her with another man claiming to be Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn). Liz says she doesn`t know who this man is and security officials escort him out of the hotel. Martin is still dizzy and confused, but he is sure of his identity and will stop at nothing to prove he is the real Martin Harris. He searches for Gina to see if she can help him and together they begin to work with a former East German spy named Ernst Jurgen (Bruno Ganz) who is willing to help Martin by looking at every particular detail of his situation. The movie then takes several unexpected twists.

Frank Langella also has a secondary role as Rodney Cole, a long time friend of Martin who could point out he is the real Martin, but who can`t be located. It`s always a plus to have someone like Langella in a secondary role because they can bring so much to a movie, but in this particular case he goes by unnoticed. He only serves the purpose of revealing to the audience an important twist the film will take. I thought that entire scene was totally unbelievable. I really enjoy suspenseful thrillers, but I just wasn’t pleased with this one because the pace of the film was to slow and the ending just didn’t pay off for me. I don’t have a problem with slow films as long as the wait pays off at the ending, but in this case it didn’t. I was disappointed because I really like Liam Neeson and consider him to be among the best actors in the industry, but this just wasn’t the right movie for him. He was meant to play cool characters in control of their own destiny. I really missed the Neeson from Taken who destroyed entire cities in search of his daughter. In Unknown he is just lost, confused, and less scary. Unknown isn’t a terrible movie, it has its moments and had me hooked for a while. It’s better than Jaume`s debut film House of Wax, but it’s still far from being a great film.

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