“They had me convinced that I was crazy.” As soon as Neeson wakes up from the coma, you’re left wondering if this scenario has been Bourne before. Surely the writers wouldn’t?
You immediately sense the sinister under-tone to this movie as Dr Martin Harris and his wife Liz (played by January Jones) arrive in a cold dark Berlin. At first glance they appear to be a happy couple travelling for a conference in which Harris is to be a guest speaker, amongst others. As they arrive at their hotel to check in, Harris realises he’s left his briefcase at the airport and rushes off in another cab, leaving Liz at the reception desk demanding the suite they had pre-booked, but which is now unavailable.
The impending car accident which leads to Dr Harris losing his identity is unexpected and so the action begins. This movie is littered with explosive moments which will have you gripping the edge of your seat; not least when Harris finds he can wrangle his way out of just about any life threatening situation. It is at these moments you’re left questioning just who Dr Martin Harris is; he can pack a punch like a boxer and seamlessly drive through the unfamiliar streets of Berlin like a race car pro, all the while being attacked by someone who wants to kill him. Is there no end to his talent?
The cinematography, accented with the setting and sombre music continues to invoke that sinister feeling; always a prelude to some surprising shocks. In particular, the director’s approach to envisage Harris’ viewpoint is captivating and adds to the confusion emulated by the character and his situation.
You are genuinely left feeling sorry for the main protagonist and will him to find a solution to this mess in which his wife is claiming to not know who he is. There really isn’t much to say about Jones as the only noticeable thing along with her eye-catching outfits, is her wooden expression when feigning all range of emotions.
When Harris is directed to Jurgen Ernst (played by Bruno Ganz) an ex-Stasi spy, there seems to be hope for him that all will be revealed as favours are called in from his contacts. Ganz gives a great performance as Ernst by inducing a sense of internal tumult as a sweet old man but you don’t quite know if he can be trusted – has Neeson walked into the hands of the enemy?
The tale continues with Neeson looking to the cab driver who caused the car accident and also saved his life to help him remember anything pre coma. Although Kruger’s character, Gina, is a secondary lead, you find her appearing largely through the second half of the movie, aiding Harris to find out who he really is. What doesn’t make sense is why. The plot fails here with an unbelievable scenario of a young illegal female helping a man who she doesn’t know and who inevitably puts her life in danger – the very same danger she was running away from when she came to Berlin. However, you do feel endeared to her character for coming to his rescue, despite the trail of lost lives his evasion from his enemies leaves.
The twist at the end is a little predictable, but all in all worth going along with a box of popcorn, just for it to fall all over you when you’re made to jump. Just don’t expect too much from the plot as you might have seen it before.
Unknown is in cinemas 4th March 2011.
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Stars: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones
Runtime: 113 min
Country: UK, Germany, France, Canada, Japan, USA