(Juame Collet-Serra, 2011, USA)
Continuing to reinvent himself as an ageing hard man, previously witnessed with performances as a wronged father in Taken and the cigar chomping Colonel Hannibal Smith in the recent big screen rehash of The A-Team, Liam Neeson’s latest film Unknown sees the mature actioner subjected to a perplexing bout of stolen identity. On a trip to Berlin with his wife (Mad Men’s January Jones), where he is scheduled to give a presentation on bio-technology, Martin Harris (Neeson) becomes involved in a car collision which renders him comatose for four days. Upon awakening in a daze, Harris discovers that his existence has been tampered with; his wife doesn’t recognise him, his colleagues treat him like a stranger and worse yet, he comes face to face with the ‘real’ Martin Harris, who has overtaken his identity and his marriage. Utilising the help of a guarded, apprehensive illegal immigrant (Diane Kruger), Harris battles to figure out who he really is and take back his life, only to discover that he has become embroiled in something that is bigger than he could have imagined.
Comparisons with Taken are all too evident throughout Unknown; Neesons’ stern, intelligent stiff travelling to Europe and fighting to regain something stolen from him, with the obligatory loud car chase and a pace that drip feeds the audience key information. It’s these similarities that rob Unknown of its freshness and abilities at being anything other than original, or for that matter, memorable. The best thing the film has going for it is its reasonably inventive premise, and the fact that the central conflict faced by the protagonist is one of the very few within the thriller genre to be genuinely unpredictable, yet once the fairly disappointing veil has been lifted, the puzzling suspense is undermined by a half-hearted, dull finale.
The cast similarly do little to drum up anything in the way of tension. Neeson is vacant throughout, with unfortunate facial expressions that never exceed anything more than puzzled bewilderment, forbidding the audience to fully believe his plight, nor creating a believable chemistry with Jones, who is utterly wooden, in the sporadic scenes in which they share. Additionally, Kruger is given the thankless role of embodying the foil for the screenplay to unload all of its baffling exposition onto, looking the part but never igniting the screen. Any hint of a romance between her and Neeson is jettisoned in favour of oncoming fight scenes within confined spaces, which are shot at a constant close up, obviously intent on personifying the claustrophobia but become frustrating all too quickly.
With little going for it, not even its laughable script, Unknown coasts along at a fast enough pace to justify the 113 minute runtime, but the weak acting, wasted plot and outlandish ending prevent it from being something I couldn’t possibly recommend.