Unknown (2011)

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IMDb Rating
6.9 out of 10 (view IMDb page)

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(Based on 0 Ratings)
MPAA Rating:
113 Minutes
Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Jaume Collet-Serra
Oliver Butcher

Weekly Volcano's Review

Rev. Adam McKinney on February 16th, 2011

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Here's something I never thought America would end up loving so much: watching Liam Neeson go to Europe and kick a bunch of people to death. Confidential to Neeson: you may want to avoid going to Europe, as it seems that bad things tend to happen to you there. By the way, how's your hand? You just got done punching a lot of people with it.

Unknown is, if not a literal sequel, a spiritual sequel to the utterly ridiculous Taken. Both feature Liam Neeson as a bland everyman who must become an unlikely action hero in Europe. The thing is, while Liam Neeson is great at playing an everyman with something special about him, he is not so hot at playing an everyman whose "something special" is the secret ability to totally kick ass. This worked better in Taken, because it was less than 90 minutes of non-stop Neeson ass-whupping. In Unknown, however, Neeson spends the first half an hour or so suffering from head injuries and druggings and other things that prevent him from karate chopping people in the neck.

Neeson plays a scientist (aka DWEEB) named Martin Harris. On a trip to Berlin with his wife (January Jones), he is involved in a car accident that leaves him in a coma for several days. When he comes out of it, he finds that no one recognizes him as Martin Harris - not even his wife, whom he finds with another Martin Harris, played by Aidan Quinn.

To further explain the intricacies of the plot would be (a) impossible for me to do, (b) impossible for you to follow in the limited space we are allotted and (c) ultimately unnecessary. Let it be said that nothing is quite as it seems, that evil forces are plotting against poor Martin Harris, and that, even after we're oriented in the plot, the movie will unravel in the final minutes.

Along the way, Harris encounters Ernst Jurgen, a former Stasi (or German secret police) who now works as a "man who finds people." Played by Bruno Ganz (who you may remember from his astonishing portrayal of Hitler in Downfall), Jurgen is perhaps the only interesting character in the movie. Though the others are propelled along by a twisty plot, they remain empirically boring. Jurgen arrives fully formed, with a humor and inquisitive nature about him. He is driven to help Harris out of a desire to fulfill his own curiosity, not out of a sense of correcting a wrong. A scene between Ganz and Frank Langella (as an old friend of Harris') is a master class in understatement and jovial menace.

When all is finally revealed, it feels unmistakably like a cop out. At this point in history, too many films have been made to account for the twist that Unknown provides. If this were a more ambitious film, I would definitely feel cheated. Taken as an absurd entertainment, Unknown falls slightly below the mark, but is elevated by certain set pieces (ever wanted to see Liam Neeson and Aidan Quinn pummel each other?), and  especially by Ganz, who succeeds in elevating pulp material to a very human level. - Two and a half out of three stars

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