Movie Review: Unknown

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What if “Bourne Identity” was blended with “Taken?” That concoction is “Unknown.” “Taken” was a sleeper hit a couple of years ago and one of the more memorable movies that year. It also made Liam Neeson (“A-Team,” “The Next Three Days“) a bonafide action star.

Neeson reprises his role as a one-man force. This time, instead of crossing continents to find his kidnapped daughter, he’s in search for the truth to recover his lost identity.

Neeson is Dr. Martin Harris, a university botanist arriving in a snowy Berlin from the United States with his wife, Elizabeth (January Jones), to attend a summit. The summit is funded by Prince Shada (Mido Hamada) and features Professor Bressler (Sebastian Koch) as a keynote speaker. The goal of the summit is to rid the world of hunger and through research the professor has evidently discovered genetically modified corn that can grow in any climate.

Upon arrival at the hotel, Martin realizes that he has left his briefcase at the airport. While his wife is checking in at the lobby, he takes a cab back to the airport to retrieve it. A car accident sends the cab reeling into the river. Whilst his life is saved by the courageous driver, ‘Gina’ (Diane Kruger), Martin has no idea that he’s about to embark on the ride of his life.

Lying at the hospital in a coma for four days without any identification, no one has visited Martin. While it’s a blur of images, he remembers his name and bits and pieces about his life.

After he’s prematurely discharged from the hospital at his insistence, Martin goes back to the hotel. To his shock, no one recognizes him, including his wife. Furthermore, someone else has taken his place as “Dr. Harris.” Predictably, Martin is hauled out by the police. At the station, when the online profile of Dr. Harris comes up, it’s the picture of that other man. When he asks to contact a colleague and old friend, Rodney Cole (Frank Langella) back in the States, the call is greeted by a voicemail. Later at the university, Martin is met with Professor Bressler and “Dr. Harris.”

Martin goes on to track the cab driver in hopes that she could help him with any details. An illegal immigrant who initially refuses to have anything to do with him, Gina soon sympathizes with him and becomes embroiled in his quest. Compared to bland Jones, Kruger is not bland and she gets the benefit of speaking in her native German tongue, but I don’t buy her as a super-skilled driver.

Thinking he’s probably lost his mind, he returns to the hospital for further treatments. He knows something isn’t right but can’t put his finger on it. His sense of being followed proves to be true when a mysterious man tries to kill him. Although things are actually better now he’s convinced that he’s not going out of his mind.

At the recommendation of the nurse (Eva Lobau) who cares for him at the hospital, he talks to Ernst Jurgen (Bruno Ganz), a former Stasi officer who specializes in finding missing identities. Meanwhile, assailants continue to pursue Martin.

Chaos soon follows. Brawls and shootouts. Car chases and crashes. More deaths. When Rodney arrives in Berlin and meets Martin, all is not well.  But finally, revelations…topped with explosions.

It’s hard to overlook the oversized plot holes. In 21st century Berlin, why would Martin not even attempt to log on to his professional and personal e-mail accounts, and contact anyone else in the States? Why would he not insist the police take his fingerprints? Because then there wouldn’t be a story. Lastly, it’s not easy to surpass suspension of disbelief concerning our protagonist and his actions in the end.

“Unknown” is a twisty thriller with an ending of “The Sixth Sense” (M. Night Shyamalan) proportion. Preposterous? Sure. But within the larger movie universe, I can accept the purported reality. It’s just too entertaining not to.

Copyright (c) 2011. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, lifestyle/travel writer and film columnist. She can be reached at Nathalia owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven (

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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