Monday, June 13, 2011

UNKNOWN (2011) - Liam Neeson has a slight memory problem...

Unless you've been living in North Korea for the last couple of decades, being force fed daily rations of propaganda films and polishing your Kim Jong Il pins, chances are you know who Liam Neeson is. You probably also know that the guy can play a pretty convincing badass. He shot, stabbed and throat punched half of Europe in Taken, beat the shit out of Batman himself in Batman Begins, cut dudes in half with a lightsaber in Star Wars prequels, and even his voice as Aslan, the lion in the Narnia movies, managed to make Mufasa burn with jealousy at the sound of a superior Irish voice. As if that wasn't enough, apparently he has a talent for bashing people's faces in in real life, seeing as how he was a champion boxer as a teenager. That being said, it doesn't take much to get me to watch a movie with Neeson in it, so I was waiting to get my hands on Unknown since I caught a glimpse of the snazzy trailer.

Liam's got ladies for every month of the year. This month, it's January.
Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) and his wife Liz (January Jones) have just arrived in Berlin. He is scheduled to speak at a biotechnology conference in the city, but their trip suddenly takes a turn for the unexpected as Martin remembers he misplaced his briefcase at the airport. He takes a cab driven by a pretty blonde back to the airport, which ends disastrously after the car plunges into a river after a freak accident. The girl saves the unconscious Martin and drags him to shore, where rescuers try to help him, and she leaves the scene of the accident. Martin wakes up in the next scene, completely confused as to his situation. A doctor informs him that he's been in a coma for the past four days, and that he had no I.D. on him, so they couldn't find any family to contact. Martin is eventually released from the hospital and goes out to look for Liz, remembering his reservation at the hotel and making his way there.

Visit Berlin! Experience the coma of a lifetime after a horrible car crash!
At the hotel, Martin gets the shock of a lifetime when his wife refuses to recognize him, and introduces him to her husband, another man by the name of Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn). Martin is escorted out of the hotel, and he's forced to try and piece together the fragments of his memory in order to figure out just what the hell is going on. He eventually gets ahold of Gina (Diane Kruger), the cabbie who saved his life. She reluctantly agrees to help him, while Martin also seeks help from an ex-East German secret police officer named Jurgen (Bruno Ganz). Jurgen finds a series of numbers written in Martin's notebook, which he figures must be some sort of code. As if shit wasn't confusing enough for the poor guy, he and Gina are also attacked by a gang of assassins, in a sprawling car chase through Berlin and several shoot outs. Martin must find out who he is, why the hell someone is impersonating him, why angry Germans are out to kill him, and why his bimbo of a wife is ignoring him.

If only all taxi drivers were as hot as Diane Kruger...
Martin slowly but surely begins to realize what is going on around him, and events will ultimately lead up to a thrilling, explosive climax. Without going any further into the plot, I'll state that the story has its good share of twists and turns, and never lets up on the tension. Although some of the twists are a bit obvious, the movie had me guessing several times and it all adds to the fun of the movie. Neeson is great at portraying the conflicted Martin Harris, and Diane Kruger does a good job as well. By far my favorite role was Jurgen, played by the excellent Bruno Ganz, who did a fantastic job as Adolf Hitler in Downfall and is just a very, very convincing actor. The rest of the cast was okay, but nothing else really stood out from the film.  

Somebody's gonna get stabbed.
Unknown draws inspiration from several other flicks, but sticks to its own guns enough to make the movie refreshingly original and interesting. Aside from some obvious half-assed CGI near the end, it looks as slick as any other action blockbuster you'd expect. The ending was satisfying enough, and wraps up things quite nicely. It's a good return to form for Neeson, who has by now firmly established himself in the parthenon of ass kicking leading men. Let's hope he keeps his game up.

TL;DR - Liam Neeson's back in ass-kicking mode, and yes, it's wonderful - 7.5/10


  1. I remember wanting to check this out but never catching it in the theater. I just have such a hard time seeing Schindler kicking ass. I know he was a Jedi before but I still see him as a softie. Maybe this flick will change my perception.

  2. good review - looking forward to seeing this - when's it out on DVD?

  3. it was an ok movie for me.

  4. @ TIMMY: The DVD will be available June 21st. I'm thinking I might have to pick up a copy myself.

    @ Copyboy: just what I was thinking!