Unknown (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Unknown (2011)

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Who would have thought that Liam Neeson would have become the new premiere action star in the world?  After he made Taken a surprising huge success, Neeson went on to star in The A-Team and now in the new mystery thriller Unknown. Although the movie doesn’t break any new ground, thanks to the star, it is a fun time at the movies.

With these movies Neeson is moving away from the muscular, larger than life action stars of the 80’s and 90’s and back to an earlier time where more “normal” looking men like Eastwood, Holden and McQueen were at the forefront. Neeson gives these roles believability because he comes across both as the man next door and as someone who has hidden depths of brutality to exploit.

In Unknown, he takes his everyman quality and plays Dr. Martin Harris, a botanist traveling to Berlin with his wife, Liz, to a conference. When Harris gets to the hotel he realizes he left his briefcase at the airport, he quickly hops back into a taxi cab driven by Gina (Diane Kruger). On the way back to the airport, they get into an accident and Harris is left in a coma for four days.

Who's this woman? What's going on? Comas are confusing.

When he awakens, he is concerned to find that his wife is not by his side so he rushes to find her. Harris has no ID on him, so when his wife says she doesn’t know him and that she is married to another man named Dr. Harris (Aidan Quinn), he has no way of proving that he is who he believes he is. Since the other imposter says all the right things and has the proper identification, Harris starts believing that he might have brain damage from the wreck, until a guy tries to kill him while in the hospital. At that point, Harris is determined to find out what is going on and what it has to do with him.

He finds the cab driver for some clues and hooks up with an old East German Secret Police officer named Ernest Jurgen (Bruno Ganz). Jurgen was by far my favorite character in the film. With his cauliflower ears, weathered face and tired mannerisms, Ganz, who I remember from Wings of Desire, is easily believable to be a tough guy who survived the Cold War. Even though Jurgen is not in much of the film, he elevates things to a different level in his few scenes. When he is acting against Frank Langella, the movie practically crackles.

The director of Unknown, Jaume Collet-Serra, has not made any film in the past that I have any desire to see but he stages the action scenes in this film effectively. Every once in a while he falls into the dreaded Bourne zone where everything is edited too close and choppy, but for the most part the keeps the action flowing and easy to see what is going on.

The movie is not perfect. The big central mystery is not wholly original and people that watch a lot of these types of films will probably be able to guess the twist way before the movie is at its end, but it at least it doesn’t cheat to get to this twist. Unknown doesn't do anything to change the action movie genre nor does it do anything anyone will rave about, but it's a film that is very watchable.

Like this. See this? VERY watchable.

At the end Unkown is an effective B-movie action film that isn’t released theatrically as much anymore. The acting is top notch for this type of film, the movie is not dull and the pieces do fit together more or less. Between this movie and Taken Neeson has found a new niche for himself and as long as the movies are as entertaining as his last few, I have no problems with the way his career his gone.

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Posted by Ryan

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