As we all patiently await for Besson and company to give us "Taken 2", we are at least somewhat privileged to be given "Unknown" which turns out to be "Taken" but crossed with a little of the "Bourne" films. Alright, maybe its not as good as either of those movies, but I'm a sucker for Neeson and I'm a sucker for spy films so it was a natural choice for me to find myself viewing.
Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) and his wife (Jones) are in Berlin for him to give a bio-tech speech at a technology conference. When an accident, with his taxi going straight up and over a damn bridge, gives hims a little head trauma and a bit of memory loss, Harris finds himself in a weird position. His wife doesn't know him and some other man seems to claim that he is the real Dr. Harris. When some mysterious folk appear and try to kill him, he decides enough is enough and he needs to solve this mystery once and for all. Is who he finds himself to be really what he wants, though? Jump in the Mystery van gang and lets find out!
"Unknown" is the type of film that seems to be caught in a purgatorial state. Is it a thriller? Is it an action move? It's both and neither at the same time. Unlike some films that can pull it off, "Unknown" seems to try and balance it out and fails to do so most of the time. The first half builds some nice atmosphere to get the thriller side going and the last half seems solidly focused on the action portion, but it never really combines the two well. This leaves "Unknown" feeling rather mediocre and unmemorable.
What "Unknown" does have going for it, is that a) it has a kick ass Neeson in it who has one super killer (read: cheesy) one liner at the end and b) has a pretty solid plot. Neeson is just a fun and demanding person to watch on screen and he does an admirable job with the relatively light character work he is give. This, of course, is due to the rather 'mysterious' plot that we are taken on a ride with. Not the greatest or most clever plot for a thriller, but it utilizes its settings well and gives a few solid twists to keep the viewer locked in.
One aspect of "Unknown" that needed to happen for it work better was its action sequences. Most are done in too dark of lighting and the director loves to use that quick edit/severe close up/modern look for them that just irritates the hell out of me. Half the time I couldn't tell what was really going on, despite some well set up moments. The car chase in particular bugged me as we never got to see the whole picture of what was going on. Take a hint new directors...this is not the proper way to set this shit up. Go watch some Woo or McTiernan and figure out a better way please.
All in all, "Unknown" was a fine little flick that tickled the fancy for an afternoon, but its far from the charm that "Taken" was or many modern spy thrillers. It's ultimately forgettable without enough elements to go right for it (like action scenes) and it doesn't utilize the Neeson factor to its full advantage.
BONUS RANT: To go along with its (mostly) mediocrity, the title for this film is just as forgettable as it is. Yeah, it works (just like the movie) but it doesn't grasp the viewer and take them for a ride like it could have (just like the movie).
Written By Matt Reifschneider