Unknown review

Banana Rating: 2 out of 5

Liam Neeson now clocks in at the grand old age of 58, and has seen a some­what sud­den shift late in his career to that of an action hero.

This is largely thanks to Taken. It’s a movie I love, and prob­ably one of the most touch­ing, achingly sad films I’ve ever seen. Neeson’s char­ac­ter can only con­cep­tu­al­ise his love for his daugh­ter through the medium of extreme viol­ence. It's heart rending.

Espe­cially for that guy who gets a broken bottle rammed through his chest.

Neeson’s dabbled in action before of course, most not­ably in Sam Raimi’s enjoy­able Dark­man, where he played an impossibly angry, super powered burns vic­tim, hell­bent on revenge. He’s also danced around the edges of the action genre in other comic book fare like Bat­man Begins, but it was as Taken’s unstop­pable face puncher that he was pro­pelled into the action hero big leagues.

Unknown seems to have been trailered as some sort of spir­itual sequel to Taken. It appears to tick the same boxes. It has a gen­eric one word title. In the posters, Neeson glares moodily, like he means busi­ness. And look! He has a gun! How many surly Europeans will he shoot with it this time?

How­ever, the pre-release hype is some­what mis­lead­ing. Unknown prob­ably has more in com­mon with the Har­rison Ford film, Frantic. In that film, Ford’s wife goes miss­ing in Paris and, feel­ing lost in a for­eign coun­try, he enlists the help of a younger, slightly edgy chick to help find her.

Amnesia is... wait, I forget

In Unknown, Neeson’s character’s wife is also lost to him. She hasn’t gone miss­ing though. She simply doesn’t know who he is any­more. He rolls up in Ber­lin with the mis­sus, but after the taxi he’s rid­ing plunges into a river, and he emerges from a coma, he finds another man has taken his place, whilst wifey stares at him like he’s a stranger.

Luck­ily, the taxi driver is a younger, slightly edgy chick (Diane Kruger), and he enlists her help to find out why his life appears to be a com­plete sham.

Stor­ies of amne­sia, and iden­tity theft are great for build­ing a claus­tro­phobic atmo­sphere, ripe with para­noia. But the film never really con­vinces in this respect. The major­ity of the film is Neeson get­ting a bit exas­per­ated, telling people that he’s Mar­tin Har­ris, over and over again. Whilst they just look at him like he’s bonkers.

There never seems to be a great deal at stake, or a huge amount of danger, save for a quick car chase.

The twist, when it arrives, is quite neat, if pretty easy to guess. But it seems to take a long time to get there. Interest has waned by the third act, and not even some more belated action can heat things up. On the whole, it didn’t grip me in quite the way a good thriller should.

So, spir­itual sequel to Taken? No, not really. But never mind. There’s a true sequel in the works, ima­gin­at­ively titled Taken 2. Pos­sibly Neeson’s char­ac­ter may have worked through his emo­tional prob­lems, and absconded to a mon­as­tery for the quiet life. Let’s hope not, eh?