Liam Neeson hasn’t had the easiest of times. His career was steadily on the decline when his wife, Natasha Richardson, tragically died in a skiing accident. A few years later and Neeson was back on the big screen with Taken and then his career managed to get propelled again, turning him into an action hero overnight. The A-Team followed and now we have Unknown, which has been unfairly compared to Taken, even though you can see why.
Dr Martin Harris arrives in Berlin with his wife for a biochemical convention. At the hotel, he realises one of his cases is missing and so gets a cab to take him back to the airport. On the way, the cab crashes into a river and Harris is put into a coma. Waking up in a hospital, he has very little memory but knows his wife is in Germany too. Heading back to the hotel, he confronts her only for her to announce that she has no idea who he is and that another man is Dr Martin Harris. The real doctor must prove who he really is and find out why he has become the target of assassins.
This starts off as a reasonable thriller that moves along at a steady pace slowly building the information that both the audience and Harris is getting. Everything is fine for the first two acts and then the twist occurs and the whole thing gets very silly indeed, which could be compared to a series of recent spy thrillers (not the ones with an English spy, the other one). Which is a pity because otherwise this is a decent take on a well worn story.
What helps this along is Neeson. There’s something about him that makes you believe everything he says and does. Like in Taken, which if given to any other actor would probably have been terrible, Neeson brings a very human side to it. He does the same thing here. You are taken on a journey of discovery so as soon as he finds out something, the audience does too and so we get to put the pieces together.
Neeson is ably supported this time with a very strong cast. Diane Kruger is good as the cab driver who is drawn into Harris’s search for the truth. January Jones looks good but isn’t really stretched as Harris’s wife. The other star turn (apart from Neeson) is the ever brilliant Bruno Ganz as the ex German officer who helps Harris with his investigation. One particular scene, between him and Frank Langella, is not only excellently played out by both men but a perfect example of how to make a simple scene between two elder statesmen both tense and suspenseful without having to rely on violence.
So the ending is utter nonsense, it still manages to be extremely watchable and with some pretty good car chases, it delivers the action punch just as much as the thriller side. However, this is Neeson’s show once again and proof that he one of the best around, even when the rest of the film isn’t completely up to scratch.