Liam Neeson has always been a likeable actor. Known mostly for dramas, three years ago he shocked audiences with his hard-edged portrayal of a vengeful father in the film “Taken.” Because of his outwardly kind demeanor and methodic voice, up until the Pierre Morel picture, it was tough to imagine Neeson perpetrating violence on anyone. Who knew he could kick butt so well? In “Unknown,” Neeson is back to badass form, proving that at 58, he can be just as lethal as Jason Bourne.
The film begins on a plane. Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) and wife Elizabeth (January Jones, pictured above) are on their way to an important medical convention in Berlin, Germany. After taking a cab from the airport to their hotel, Martin realizes that he left his briefcase, containing his passport and other important documents, at curbside. Leaving the Mrs. at the front desk, he goes back to retrieve it. Yet on his way back to the airport, a freak accident occurs, and his cab careens over a bridge into a river. Luckily, Gina (Diane Kruger), the driver of the taxi, manages to save him and herself before the vehicle sinks to the bottom.
Having struck his head upon impact, Martin awakes in a hospital four days later. He doesn’t recall how he got there, but he does remember his wife, Elizabeth. Unfortunately, she doesn’t remember him. In a Hitchockian scene that takes place back at the hotel, Martin’s spouse denies him and the “real” Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn) shows up.
From this point forward, we follow Martin on an exciting quest to prove his identity. Ultimately, he tracks down Gina, who is able to fill in a few gaps and with the help of former Stasi spy Ernst Jurgen (Bruno Ganz), Martin begins to realize there is something bigger going on here. Further along in the film, responding to a frantic voice message left by Martin, his friend and colleague shows up to assist. Right off the bat you don’t trust the guy because he’s played by Frank Langella, the ultimate baddy.
Although “Unknown’s” ending was pretty preposterous and downright groan-worthy, it doesn’t ruin the film. Neeson’s smart delivery saves it. Not to mention Kruger, Langella and Ganz’s contribution as well. But the true draw will be Neeson, of course. He’s in top form here. Plus this isn’t your typical action movie. There’s more suspense than fisticuffs.
If you are looking to escape for a couple hours, spend it watching “Unknown.” Don’t over-analyze it or look for flaws. Just sit back and unplug for awhile. I assure you that you won’t be disappointed.
“Unknown” — directed by Jaume Collet-Sierra and distributed through Warner Bros — opens today.
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