Liam Neeson is effectively establishing himself as the bad-ass of Hollywood at the moment. Since Taken, Neeson has managed to create an unlikely action man image, perhaps a role model for the middle-aged man, proving that you don’t have to be young to still kick some serious ass. Taken was an excellent example of that, moving from fight to fight, with incredibly tight pacing that formed a highly enjoyable action flick. He then did a similar thing again with the role of Hannibal in the fun adaptation of The A-Team, and now he looks set to continue his action trend with this, a conspiracy action thriller, Unknown.

Whilst in Berlin to attend a conference, Biochemist Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) is involved in a car accident that leaves him in a coma for four days. When he awakes, he returns to his hotel and discovers no-one knows who he is, his wife doesn’t know, the hotel staff don’t know, and there is another man who has taken his identity. Martin is left dazed and confused by the whole proceedings and begins to believe the accident may have left him insane. But soon, he discovers that people are following him and that his life is in danger. With the help of the women driving the taxi he crashed in, Gina (Diane Kruger), Martin goes out to prove his identity and find out what is really going on.

Like my title for this review suggests, the premise of this movie is quite Bourne Identiy-esque. Although the idea of waking up and finding someone else in your place is quite intriguing and fairly original, it’s just the way the rest of the story unfolds that feels quite uninspired, and the twist is not too much of a surprise and feels like an anti-climax when it eventually comes along. I was hoping for something a lot more complex. Maybe not complex, but at least something with much more of a shock factor, perhaps more off-kilter and crazy then what you actually get out of this. To be honest, the story is the weakest element of this movie, which does distract quite a bit from the action.

However, what keeps the story afloat and keeps your interest until that twist does arrive is the character development and the performances from a top-notch cast. Neeson is his usual dependable self. He really is the kind of actor who seems to raise the quality of any movie that he is in, adding intensity, plausibility and raw emotion. The character here isn’t a far cry away from his character in Taken, but it’s a role he’s highly confident in, and the movie is all the better for it. Diane Kruger is great support as always, whereas January Jones isn’t as convincing as Neeson’s wife. For one, she seems quite young for him. Frank Langella adds a touch of class in his brief screen time. Bruno Ganz makes an impact as well as the resourceful ex-Stasi agent who helps Harris find out what the hell is going on, as he enjoys the rush of once again being involved in an investigation, an element of his life that has been missing since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and therefore East Germany. Sebastian Koch, who was brilliant in The Lives of Others, also stars as Dr. Leo Bressler, a role which doesn’t ask much from him, however he manages to establish sympathy for his character in his small amount of screen time. 

Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who has proved an effective hand at horror with Orphan and the surprisingly good remake of House of Wax, uses the city of Berlin to great advantage through the use of its many landmarks and the less impressive back streets. And I’ve recently been to Berlin in the past year so it was really fun spotting places where I have been as well. I’m that cool. The pacing of this movie isn’t as quick as Taken, due to the thriller elements of the story coming more in to play. When the action kicks in though, it really is exciting. The editing is incredibly tight and gets the pulse going, a certain car chase highlights this particularly well. The fights as well are very well executed, it’s a shame there isn’t a few more of them to be honest. But the action that is present is particularly satisfying. So, while it may not be as action-packed as Taken, Unknown certainly has enough to keep action fans and Neeson fans satisfied. At least till Taken 2 is made anyway.

3/5- An intriguing premise is not exploited enough and the story doesn’t hold many surprises. But with Neeson on good form and some brilliantly directed action, this is a very satisfying action thriller with plenty to enjoy.

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