Sunday, September 25, 2011

Unknown. B

The movie that Jaume Collet-Serra directed before Unknown was Orphan, which I liked. Unknown is even better. It has its variety of problems (which can only be expected from mainstream thrillers these days), but it's also well crafted and a good deal of fun, too. This is the second mystery for Liam Neeson set in Europe where all kinds of surprising secrets are revealed about his character. The set-up for Unknown is made pretty clear in the film's trailer: a professor, Dr. Harris (Neeson) and his wife (January Jones, well used as a classic Hitchcock blonde even if her acting is even worse than in X-Men) are going to Berlin for a conference. They get to the hotel, Harris discovers a suitcase got left at the airport, goes alone in a taxi to get it, and is subsequently involved in a dangerous car wreck. He wakes up in the hospital days later and rushes off to the conference only to find that his wife doesn't recognize him, that she has a different husband, and that maybe he isn't Dr. Harris after all. This sets up for a Jason Bourne-style adventure, but Collet-Serra's approach is more cool and quiet, which nicely fits Neeson's persona. There's some action, but the film never relies on it to keep the viewer involved. As in Taken, Neeson is perfect as the laid back gentleman thrown into world he knows well but hasn't visited in a while. The rest of the cast is excellent, too, especially Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor best known for playing Hitler in Downfall. One doesn't watch a movie like Unknown without expecting some sort of twist at the end. I was anticipating a disaster and got something, that, while not perfect, worked well enough. Perhaps the best part about it is that it doesn't contradict the rest of the film. In other words, it explains certain elements of Neeson's character that we see in pieces throughout the story. Neeson seems to enjoy doing this European adventures. He fits into them really well, and his presence makes them better movies. I'm all for more of them in the future.

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