Movie #29: Unknown

Unknown is the kind of plot-twisting action thriller that I used to love watching (still do, but good ones are not as common these days). Liam Neeson stars as Dr. Martin Harris, a scientist visiting Berlin with his wife (played, quite poorly I might add, by Mad Men‘s January Jones) for a biotech conference. He gets into a car accident, and when he wakes up he finds that not only are his own memories a bit hazy, his wife doesn’t recognize him anymore, and someone else (played by Aidan Quinn) has taken over his identity and his life! Great premise, right? It’s actually quite a coincidence that I’m watching this movie now (I had no idea what it was about) because its themes of memory and identity fit nicely with The Bourne Legacy (well, it fits better with the other Bourne movies, but the echoes are there) and even nicer with the remake of Total Recall (which I didn’t actually watch, but its release got me thinking of those themes again). Anyway, as the real Martin Harris tries to figure out what’s going on, he makes contact with the cab driver from the accident (played by Diane Kruger — you might remember her from Inglorious Basterds or Troy) and an old, ex-Stasi, private eye (played by renowned German/Swiss actor, Bruno Ganz). Mystery turns to peril once Harris starts to notice someone following him, and later trying to kidnap him from the hospital. It was interesting to see some of the Berlin locales, which I remember from my 2009 vacation, made to look foreboding and sinister (there was a lot of that fluorescent blue-green lighting used to give that euro-creepiness to many scenes). The first half of the movie conveyed a feeling of confusion and frustration (like when the airline loses your luggage), but the second half was more of that paranoid, suspenseful action (like when there’s someone chasing you down an abandoned alley). With all the plot-twisting suspense movies that have come before (including Hitchcock’s seminal body of work), don’t be too hard on this movie if you figure out the conclusion early. I didn’t really try to decipher the clues, but I also wasn’t jumping back in the sofa when it was all revealed either. Neeson gives a pretty good performance as the confused Harris, and the movie nicely embodies that chaotic sense of disorientation that his character must have been experiencing, but I was missing the desperation and momentum that would have really kept this movie going (4 out of 5).

29 down, 21 to go!

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