Deceptively, Unknown initially appears to be a follow up to the 2008 film Taken. Starring the same actor who was in that film; Liam Neeson, advertising a similar poster, using a similar one word and two syllable title and sharing the similar setting of a European metropolis, the film is far from Neeson’s Jason Bourne-esque predecessor. Based on the book Out Of My Head by Didier van Cauwelaert, Unknown is a mystery thriller using the identity theft motif best applied in films such as North By Northwest and the like.
Liam Neeson is Dr Martin Harris on a conference trip in Berlin with his wife (January Jones), where he is involved in a car crash that leaves him in a coma. When he finally comes to in a German hospital realising that no one has come to look for him, he goes to the hotel where he was staying only to find that there is already a Doctor Harris (Aiden Quinn). Neeson spends the rest of the film in a state of confusion, at the shock of the betrayal of his wife and without use of the necessary documents to prove he is who he says he is. While Neeson plays detective in Berlin with the reluctant help of illegal immigrant Diane Kruger; two assailants are trying to kill him for reasons unbeknownst to him. Predictably all will be revealed in a didn’t see that coming twist at the film’s end.
Unknown is a poor film by any standards. It is marketed as an action film whilst belonging to the suspense genre but not actually being very suspenseful. What saves it somehow was the unintentional humour derived from the ridiculous situations, but most importantly from Neeson’s intense performance of an everyman pushed to the limit.
Along with Neeson’s performance the supporting cast is the film’s saving grace, especially Bruno Ganz role as a former Stasi Officer, delivering witty cynicisms on the situation and the former Republic of East Germany and Diane Kruger’s sense of desperation as an illegal immigrant.
This film is in no way artistic and no one is pretending it is either. However despite its drabness it is has a few entertaining moments and no one can argue with it box office success in the US.