Directed by Jaume Collet-Sera
Almost immediately after his Dr. Harris lands in Berlin with his wife, the filmmakers find a way to separate him from his wife by putting him in a cab and tossing that cab over the side of a bridge, Harris hitting his head and his comatose body being dragged out of the water by his cab driver. When he wakes up in a hospital four days later, he has no identification and is fuzzy about what happened, though he doesn’t have amnesia and vaguely remembers who he was and why he’s in Berlin. When he returns to the hotel, there’s another man with his wife claiming to be him. This is clearly upsetting, but before Harris can find out the truth, he’s pursued by killers and he seeks out the help of his cab driver (Diane Kruger) who in turn sends him to an ex-Stasi agent who may have some answers for him.
As much as “Unknown” tries to be an intelligent thriller for grown-ups, the premise is pretty silly and normally, when that’s the case, you know it’s going to lead to an equally silly twist. Dark Castle regular Jaume Collet-Sera’s previous movie “Orphan” had one of the funniest twist endings possibly ever, though this doesn’t quite achieve that extreme of insanity because the plot is so based in thriller cliches we’ve seen before, there aren’t as many surprises until that third act. We won’t give away the big twist, though we’ll say that the film’s biggest problem is that once it’s revealed, much of what happens in the film’s third act negates what happened earlier by turning much of it into nonsensical drivel.
Neeson is such a strong dramatic actor it’s disappointing when he has moments where his performance goes so overboard that he seems to be channeling Harrison Ford at his worst, and one has to wonder who thought it would be a good idea to have Diane Kruger in a movie entirely set in Berlin playing a non-German? Her Bosnian accent just isn’t very good and it completely detracts from what would have otherwise been a solid performance. Even Frank Langella seems to be phoning it in with a character who mostly appears in the third act and drives home how implausible most of the premise is as well as offering one of the film’s most careless moments. That essentially leaves the film’s only real saving grace in former “Downfall” despot Bruno Ganz as the Stasi agent who adds the only really warmth to the proceedings so he truly stands out.
Despite the problems, the Spanish filmmaker, like Neeson, is more than competent to handle everything that’s required, and the results are a fairly decent action flick with the type of car chases and exploits one might expect from a Joel Silver Joint. Even so, if you’ve seen enough of his movies, you can almost guess the way stunts are going to go before they happen.
The Bottom Line: