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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Movies: UNKNOWN

Thoughts on Films
Movie Review


The way I see it, every action star has their trademark image. Sly Stallone is the brutal soldier who’ll gut you like a trout without blinking. Bruce Willis is the smartass who cracks a joke about you as he drives his car into your helicopter. And then there’s Schwarzenegger, who blurts out the memorable one-liners that have come to define a generation whilst tossing a handful of grenades at grandma’s bridge tournament.

Liam Neeson is nothing like these guys. Oh sure, he has a body count from here to Pittsburgh, but he’s in a class all his own. He’s the sophisticated action star, well-read and world traveling, the kind who can choke you with piano wire and give you a dissertation on the rise and fall of the Byzantine Empire at the same time.




It’s these qualities that make him work so well in his latest film, Unknown, where he plays Dr. Martin Harris, who suffers an unfortunate accident while attending a biotechnology summit with his wife Liz. OK, maybe unfortunate isn’t quite accurate—his cab drives off a bridge into a river while avoiding a refrigerator falling off a truck. You always hear how safe those summits are….maybe it’s time to hit the gun show instead.

When Harris comes to four days later, he learns his life has essentially been erased. His wife doesn’t know him and any traces of his past life are gone. Given how much debt I’ve accrued, I’d welcome the chance to pass off my existence onto someone else. Don’t forget to pay the student loans, guys!

Soon after he narrowly dodges an assassination attempt, and thus begins Harris’ violent and turbulent quest to find out just what the hell happened during those four days he spent with a catheter up his ass. He later teams up with the plucky Gina (Diane Kruger), the same cab driver who crashed him off that damn bridge in the first place! If I were Neeson, I’d take her back to the scene of the crime and toss her in the river to see if she could grab the cell I lost.


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The movie takes a series of interesting twists and turns, with old friends turning against our hero, a revelation that Harris was never who he thought he was, and the purpose of his trip was a tad darker than a conference on renewable energy and green technology. Unknown keeps a pretty intense pace from the beginning, when Harris takes the plunge into the drink only a few minutes after the opening credits. There are a few lulls here and there, but these moments are well-spent, giving us more clues to the story and the characters’ backgrounds.

The only real drawback-I saw some annoyingly strong traces of a similar spy movie in this one, and once I made the connections, the ending was no shocker. Fans of Neeson will see strong traces of his role in Taken, where he played a father busting bad guy ass to save his daughter, except this time he’s busting bad guy ass to save his wife, except his wife…..well, you need to hit the theater to get the whole story.

Neeson and co-stars Kruger and Frank Langella take the prize for best actors in this one, with the remainder of the roles filled with lukewarm performances. Least appealing is January Jones, who takes on the role of Liz Harris. Sure, she gets credit for the coolest name (personally, I’d like to be called November Norris), but the whole time she acts like she never even read the script, and gives no emotion at all.

Unknown has all the qualities of the action thriller we’ve come to enjoy in recent years, spiced up with some decent car crashes and seesaw fight scenes. Neeson, Kruger and Langella bring their A-game to this one, and the twists are pretty cool. Even if we’ve seen them before.


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