By: Oberst von Berauscht (Three Beers) –
Dr. Martin Harris is attending a biotech summit in Berlin, where famous scientists from around the world are gathering.An accident occurs which causes Martin to be hospitalized for several days in a coma and separated from his wife.When he returns he finds that his wife doesn’t recognize him, and in fact a strange man has replaced him claiming to be him.In other words, he’s got one hell of an identity crisis.
Unknown follows a fairly straightforward conspiracy story, but what makes the film work is the original twist the film takes in its crucial third act.At this point, the game changes significantly, but believably, away from the conventional.Unfortunately, to give it away would ruin a truly satisfying moment in the film, so I cannot go into too much detail.For his role of the Doctor, Liam Neeson is a wonderfully hapless everyman, but never shakes from his determination.Diane Kruger is strong as Gina, the taxi driver who takes Neeson in.She manages to form a fully realized character that has her own identity issues, being an illegal immigrant.Her goal is to save up enough money to become legal, but she is held back by her own personal problems.
It is Bruno Ganz who really shines; he portrays Jürgen, an ex-Stasi agent who now makes a living as a private investigator.Martin’s situation fascinates Jürgen, who is anxious for an excuse to be a spy again.In the film’s greatest moment of suspense, Jürgen is confronted by Professor Cole (Frank Langella) in the scene where the first valuable piece of the puzzle is revealed.
If only a few clichés could have been avoided, this could have been a great film rather than simply a good thriller.First off, in this movie that takes place in Northern Germany they still managed to find and kill off the black guy.This makes me wish that Fred Williamson was in the movie.
Another cliché the movie is faced with is a bad case of “lost signal”.There is a scene at the beginning where Liam Neeson is desperately trying to call his wife on the cell phone, and somehow in downtown Berlin he’s in a dead zone.This scene is shoehorned into all sorts of films nowadays as an easy way to explain why the characters simply didn’t call somebody.I’ve never been to Berlin, but when last I checked Germany is one of the most technology-savvy nations in the world, and the fact that his Blackberry had no signal is less believable than if they simply ignored the calling problem at all.
January Jones, who plays Martin’s wife, is absolutely painful to watch.This is especially sad because of how little screen time she has to win you over.She’s made a decent career for herself in recent years, what with Mad Men and the upcoming X-Men movie, but she seems absolutely lost here, and displays zero chemistry with Neeson.This ultimately lessens the impact of Martin’s loss, because by comparison, with Gina he has a better half that actually qualifies as such.
Suitably entertaining, measurably gripping, but much like Liam Neeson’s quandary in this film, not something that will remain in your memory for long.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever “Dr. Martin Harris” is said
Take a Drink: for every person who dies
Down a Shot: when Liam Neeson finally gets to say something badass