Unknown Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones Running Time: 1 hr 49 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: February 18, 2011
PLOT: A doctor (Neeson) is set to speak at a bio-tech conference that could change the world, but he gets into an accident. Suddenly, his wife (Jones) doesn't recognize him and he must try to prove he's really Dr. Martin Harris.
WHO'S IT FOR? It's your basic run-of-the-mill thriller with a good mystery brewing. SPOILER ALERT -- there will be some things that are discussed in this review. Don't worry, I do my best when it comes to spoilers so if you aren't already out the door buying your ticket to Unknown you should be safe. Don't trust other critics with spoilers though ... ever.
EXPECTATIONS: I thought I was getting an amnesia movie, I also figured that if you're going down that path again in a movie, you're going to have to know what you're doing.
ACTORS: Liam Neeson as Dr. Martin Harris: Taken has altered what Neeson is as an actor. Even though he's a giant man (still an inch or two shorter than me) he's able to be venerable with this role. Martin must figure out what's going on. He's lost in a foreign land. The downside to the character is the limited dialogue. It seems to be one too many times where he's barking questions in a stagnated tone, which does hurt the timing of this thrill ride. While saying that, he is good enough to watch. When I saw Taken it was like watching an older Jason Bourne. That's not quite the case here, but it's close. Score: 7
January Jones as Elizabeth Harris: Ice queen. It's a role she's made memorable as Betty on "Mad Men." It's mainly that icy cold, blank stare. I saw her give an absolutely terrible performance on "Saturday Night Live." It was with that same blank stare. She's got those empty eyes and what seems like limited ranger her as Martin's wife. A case can be made that this is what the character calls for. But I'm not really sure. Here's some advice for Jones (a big fan of TSR advice from what I understand) ... prove you can do something different. Then again, a case can be made on Jones being one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood and then my argument will fall mute on most ears. Score: 4
Diane Kruger as Gina: This might just be an opinion (as opposed to the rest of this review, which is fact) but there's really not much "sexy" about an Eastern bloc accent. My only thought of Kruger is that I loved her in Inglorious Basterds, but that's mainly because I love that movie. My friend, whom I took to this movie, thinks Kruger is "Top 5 Hot." They make Gina the cab driver in the wrong place at the wrong time. They also give her some artistic ability by showing a sketch book lying around. None of this endures her to the audience and that's really the most important part of this character with this kind of thriller. Score: 5
Rest of Cast: Aidan Quinn as the other Martin is serviceable. Bruno Ganz as Ernst Jürgen is the perfect addition and also manages to play the role of comic relief. Frank Langella shows up for a little bit as Rodney Cole and I could have used more of a focus on Rodney and Ernst. Score: 6
TALKING: Neeson's lines consist of saying "I can't remember." "I am Dr. Martin Harris." "He's not Dr. Martin Harris." Beyond that there are a couple of really cool lines sprinkled in an otherwise typical script. The idea of "being told who you are, and knowing who you are," is great I just don't think they brought it out enough. Score: 6
SIGHTS: Neeson could have struggled more with his head trauma. There was a moment in the club with the techno pounding, but that didn't lead anywhere. There is a good, solid car chase that is the highlight of the action here. And, you definitely feel like you're in Berlin the entire time. Score: 6
SOUNDS: The musical score never adds to any of the secretive fun in Unknown. The only song I remember hearing was a cover of "Blue Monday" by New Order during the club scene. That's not enough. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: Well, this is truly a personal "best scene." During a flashback, I literally let out an audible "sigh" of knowledge. At that point I figured out the mystery and everything past that point just confirmed what I knew. I beat my group of three friends to this knowledge by at least 20 minutes. Yes, I am bragging.
ENDING: Wow, it's shocking how much I didn't care. Here's a possible Unknown tagline: We can't let this corn fall into the wrong hole.
QUESTIONS: Since it's an intelligent thriller, I should have questions, but unfortunately they did almost too good of a job of tying up an sings of loose ends.
REWATCHABILITY: I feel like I caught on a little quick with this thriller, therefore I don't feel the need to see it again.
It's not a bad ride, but you eventually come to the realization that it's about the reveal. Who dunnit? How'd they do that? Only the great thrillers can make you hooked from beginning to end, and the best part with those is that you forget how desperate you are for the ending/reveal. Plus, women typically play such a vital role in these types of films. They are our sympathy, our tension, our allure. We have a deer in headlights (Jones) and an Eastern bloc accent (Kruger) slowing us down on that front.
With Unknown, it goes through the motions of a thriller almost too easy. People are constantly in the right place at the right time. A gun always gets knocked loose, someone is barely spotted at the last second, it all feels done before. I needed more moments like a quick comment about thin walls and then suddenly bodies smashing through them. That's a shock. That's a surprise. Unknown didn't have enough. Plus, while they did have a decent reveal, they gave it away a little too quickly. After that we're stuck in a normal action movie.
There is a known quality to Unknown and it's that of a pretty average film.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10