Why is it that Hollywood feels the need now to almost ruin an otherwise decent thriller by inserting some obnoxious plot twist at the end of the movie? It’s a problem I feel like I’ve had with a lot of movies lately (take, for instance, “The Tourist”, although I can’t say that movie was “otherwise decent”) and it’s a problem I have with “Unknown”, a thriller from director Jaume Collet-Serra.
Liam Neeson stars in the movie as Dr. Martin Harris, who is attending a biotechnology conference in Berlin with his wife Liz (January Jones). While Liz is checking into their hotel, Martin realizes that one of his suitcases never made it to the taxi, so he rushes off to the airport. On his way, he gets in a car accident. While the taxi driver Gina (Diane Kruger) saves him, he ends up in the hospital in a coma for four days. When he wakes up, he has no identification and his memory is spotty, and when he does finally track down Liz at their hotel, she claims she doesn’t know him; in fact, there’s another man there with her who claims to be Dr. Martin Harris. It turns out this guy is more than just a schmuck trying to play a joke; Martin soon finds out that this guy has all his memories and family photos.
The first two-thirds of the movie is pretty entertaining, as it balances both explosive action with the unraveling of an intriguing mystery, which deepens when Martin enlists the help of Gina and a private detective (Bruno Ganz). Over thirty years into his acting career, Neeson is perhaps Hollywood’s latest and greatest action star, combining his dramatic acting chops with his imposing figure to create a character that is intelligent, tough, and, most of all, human.
Really, with a great start to the film and with a star like Neeson, “Unknown” should be one of the more impressive new releases of 2011 so far. However, in the last third of the movie the story takes a turn and what started as a much more personal story just gets bigger and bigger, to the point where it can’t hold itself up anymore and you just don’t care about what happens to Martin. It’s especially hard to care when Martin’s motivations and what he does after the twist is revealed are so confusing.
“Unknown” is by no means a bad movie. In fact, it’s entertaining to a point. But it could have been so much better, so much more memorable, had the plot just stuck to the immediate conspiracy surrounding an innocent man searching for his identity.
Runtime: 113 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sexual content.
Visit National Cinemedia to find theaters and showtimes for “Unknown” in the St. Louis area.
For more info, feel free to email me. For updates on my latest articles, click the subscribe button at the top of this page. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.