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Hal2001 02-22-2011 03:27 PM

Jaume Collet-Serra's Unknown
Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

Unknown (2011)

“Unknown” is best described as a mixture of “The Bourne Identity” and “Taken,” the first because of the main character not remembering the whole truth of the situation and finding a world of trouble in the process, the second because of the unrelenting action sequences and, of course, their lead star, Liam Neeson. It comes as no surprise that combining these two interesting thrillers together makes for an intriguing time at the cinema.

Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and his wife, Elizabeth (January Jones), are in Berlin to attend a biotechnology summit where he is going to give a presentation. Upon their arrival at their hotel, Martin discovers that he’s left a briefcase filled with important materials at the airport. Without telling his wife, he hops back into a cab and quickly tries to retrieve his briefcase. Unfortunately, on the way there, a large container falls off of a truck in front of them, causing the cab driver, Gina (Diane Kruger), to swerve off a bridge and into the water below.

Four days later, Martin awakens from a coma and tries to track down his wife. When he eventually does, she claims not to know who he is, and stranger yet, there is a man with her (Aidan Quinn) claiming to be Martin Harris. Without any form of identification, Martin must go about trying to prove who he is with the help of Gina, the cab driver who saved his life. However, this becomes even more difficult when he realizes that there are people after him.

The main complaints against “Unknown” have been about it having an absurd plot and too many twists, but neither of these are entirely true. Some minor parts of the plot are absurd, but most of it actually works quite well. As for the twists, this could depend of what people think of as a twist, but really, there are only two big twists in the entire film, one being when the main character is replaced and the other occurring near the end.

The story is what actually keeps the movie chugging along. The mystery that it presents is intriguing enough to draw the audience in until it is finally concluded. The final twist itself is not the kind that will blow you away, but it at least presents a logical conclusion to the story while having kept you guessing every step of the way as to what the solution could be. I had several different possibilities running through my mind, but none of them ended up being the right solution.

“Unknown” is also driven along by its well-done action sequences. While most action films nowadays sadly put no thought into their action sequences, turning them into bland blurs of explosions, “Unknown” presents some expertly crafted car chase sequences that achieve a level of thrills that you rarely come across with movies like this anymore. It’s sequences like this that helped this film’s predecessors (i.e. the two mentioned earlier) work well enough to become memorable.

Then there’s the star power of Liam Neeson. His recent transformation into an action star has led him into several different, but well-made films like “Taken” and “The A-Team.” He has shown that he has what it takes to lead films like this. Especially with “Unknown” and “Taken,” he’s shown that he can bring a gritty realism to characters in desperate situations like being replaced by a complete stranger or having his daughter kidnapped.

It’s a shame that the reception toward this film hasn’t been better. It’s true that it makes you think a little more than action films that are churned out on an assembly line, but with its intriguing story and thrilling action sequences, “Unknown” becomes the first decent movie of the year and is worth checking out for those who are into action films as well as those who like a good mystery that needs solving. 3/4 stars.

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