Thursday, April 7, 2011

Unknown *

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones
Aidan Quinn, Frank Langella, Bruno Ganz

Unknown has all the makings for a campy, exciting, popcorn thriller; there's amnesia, femme fatales, exotically frigid locations, female cab drivers and Bruno Ganz as a kooky Stasi agent.
However, it fails to deliver cheesy, or any other kind, of thrills because it takes itself too seriously.
Liam Neeson plays Dr. Martin Harris, a renowned scientist who goes to Berlin with his wife (Jones) to attend a biotechnology summit. After a mishap at the airport and an accident that sends him to the hospital he wakes up to realize nobody knows who he is and worse than that, somebody else seems to have stolen his life.
His wife is still in Berlin with her own version of Dr. Harris (Quinn) and neither of them have any recollection of who this man who claims to be the "real Dr. Harris" can be.
Devastated he teams up with the cab driver (Kruger) who remembers him and sets out to discover the mystery behind these strange events.
Shot with almost too much precision by Collet-Serra, the film becomes a self important attempt at delivering a serious thriller. Yet it seems that the director is completely unaware that the screenplay includes secret plots to assassinate royals and Nazi inspired conspiracy theories.
Not that you can't combine both and make them into something superb (right?) but the director's take and the story never seem to be on the same page.
Neeson sulks beautifully of course and his rugged, worried face makes once again for an unlikely perfect action hero. You can't help but feel that he would be more at home in a Hitchcockian throwback, instead of this chaos.
His scenes with Jones have a specially seductive, almost tragic tone. As he remembers life with his wife, you see traces of Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo, with Jones being the ultimate ice queen.
However the director cheapens this mood by making the flashbacks be recollections of shower sex and muffled moaning against a glass door...
Because Neeson is so reliably good, even his worst scenes have a certain serenity to them. The whole cast however seems to be playing out different movies. Kruger looks completely uninterested, Langella is reliably creepy and Ganz gives the movie just the right tone of cheesiness needed for audiences to relax.
The action sequences are over indulgent, sloppy and filled with plot holes. Sure, this may be a surreal plot, but even fantasy should be grounded on a version of the truth.
Unknown's main problem is that it never figures out what kind of movie it wants to be.


InsomniacSoleil said...

There's nothing more frustrating than seeing a trailer with a couple of good actors and coming to understand that they are there to help deliver an interesting story and find out that it just doesn't work. It seems from your review that the cause of this is mainly from the supporting actors. But where is the Directors roll in this? I get so worked up when I go to see a movie with potential to have at least some redeemable qualities and get a disaster like what you described because not everyone is on the same page.

This sounds like a paycheck movie. I will avoid it.

Thanks for the good review!

Jose said...

Paycheck movie ALL the way! Haha, glad you enjoyed the review!