Unknown (2011)

 In this action/thriller directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, our hero, Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson), after waking up from a head trauma is forced to endure life on the run in the city and burbs of Berlin. With a fragmented memory, no identification and his supposed wife Elizabeth Harris (January Jones) not recognizing him, Dr. Harris must defend himself and keep one step ahead from a handful of mysterious men trying to kill him. His only allies are a high strung cab driver Gina (Diane Kruger) and a cryptic ex-Stasi agent Bruno Ganz (Ernst Jurgen) as he runs, hides and car crashes his way through the streets of Berlin trying to regain his identity.

In the opening scene we are casually introduced to Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and his lovely young wife Elizabeth Harris (January Jones) on a flight to Berlin for a Bio summit. Shortly after landing in Berlin Mrs. Harris checks them into the ritzy Hotel Adlon while our mild mannered Dr. takes a taxi back to the airport to retrieve a left behind briefcase containing his identification and important documents. En route the taxi is involved in an accident and Dr. Harris endures a blow to the head.  After a few days unconscious, Dr. Harris awakens in a hospital. With no ID he’s a John Doe, confused and he also suffers from partial amnesia. Once up and about, Dr. Harris returns to the Hotel Adlon to reunite with his sure to be distraught wife. But this is not the case. Not only is the lovely Mrs. Harris not distraught, she is attending a Bio Summit dinner with her husband Dr. Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn??), wait, wuh??… This twist starts the audiences gears turning, while it casts the good Dr. Harris (Neeson, or is he?…) onto the cold streets of Berlin and into a whirlwind of confusion and danger as he tries to piece together his true identity.

This movie is about the main character Dr. Harris (Neeson) and I mean all about him. Neeson is in just about every frame of the movie. But that’s not to say the other actors don’t shine. The scenes with Elizabeth Harris (January Jones) being charming with the other hotel guests are close up and beautiful, the camera loves this woman. Aidan Quinn puts in a convincing role as Dr. Martin Harris #2 and has a somewhat humorous scene with Neeson where they both recite a few of Dr. Harris’s memories in unison. (Diane Kruger) plays Gina, an out of place in Berlin taxi driver partly responsible for Dr. Harris’s head injury. She gets sucked into the Dr’s nightmare and is forced to run though the streets dodging bullets and evading bad guys. She winds up being Dr. Harris’s only real ally.  A very interesting character is Bruno Ganz (Ernst Jurgen) a former Russian Eastern-Block Stasi agent that has a tie in with an enigmatic Professor Rodney Cole (Frank Langella).

The cinematography was shot with the obvious purpose of giving the audience one perspective of Berlin, the cold, snowy and wet Berlin in the winter and it is done superbly. All outdoor shots are gray overcast with wet sleet which gives a prominent symbolism to our hero being left out in the cold and emphasizes the harsh reality of his predicament. This movie puts Berlin on the bottom of anyone’s “cities to visit” list. The only locations in the movie that are bright, warm and inviting are the scenes shot in the Hotel Adlon and this is by design also.

Even though the movie lets the main character handle several unbelievable, way over the top life and death situations, Neeson portrays a very likable character and you’re pulling for him the whole time (think “Taken” meets “The Bourne Identity”). “Unknown” is an entertaining and interesting movie with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing.  Liam Neeson fans and action thriller fans will enjoy this movie.

Vogel

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