It’s always a risk, accepting a role with the slightest resemblance to one you’ve played in a previous, successful movie. You’ve created a rod for your own back. If the film turns out to be as good as, or better than, its predecessor, you’re accused of taking the easy option. If it doesn’t live up to it, then you’re held responsible for ruining the genre.
That’s basically what happened, unfairly, to Liam Neeson when he took on the role of Martin Harris in Unknown, available on the 18th of July on DVD and Blu-ray. Immediately dubbed as the new Taken, the movie – a sinister thriller that is end-to-end intrigue – didn’t live up to Taken at the box office; largely because it wasn’t Taken.
It is, in fact, profoundly more complicated and distressing. In Taken, you knew what was going to happen before it happened, and watched it unfold as you’d expected. Unknown is exactly that – you’ve no clue what’s going on, and therefore no idea what will happen next. Harris and his wife Liz (Mad Men’s January Jones) arrive in Berlin for a vital bio-tech summit. As Liz checks into the hotel where the summit’s held, Harris realises his briefcase is missing and leaps in a cab driven by Gina (Diane Kruger) to retrieve it from the airport. One accident and four days later, Harris awakes from a coma and sets out to find his wife, who must surely be out of her mind with worry.
Understandably, he’s somewhat baffled when not only is Liz utterly unconcerned by his disappearance, but she has no clue who he is, and introduces him to her husband, Martin Harris (Aiden Quinn). Harris mk 2 has the same photo in his wallet, the same biography on his university’s website, the same knowledge and childhood memories, and rather unfortunately, the necessary ID that says he is who he says he is; something our Harris doesn’t have since it’s residing in the missing briefcase.
Think The Bourne Identity with a more sinister supporting cast.
Harris sets out, along with the reluctant Gina and former German secret police agent Ernst Jürgen (Bruno Ganz), to prove who he is, relying on his patchy memory to unravel the truth. Unfortunately, there are more people hell-bent on preventing him doing that than there are on his side. As his path leaves a trail of murder, deception and suicide in its wake, events become more and more complex until we’re left wondering if he really ought to have just left well enough alone.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, Unknown is fast-paced, slick, edge-of-your-seat stuff. Neeson, a superb actor, is as believable as the devastated and confused husband who just wants his wife and his memory back as he was as the devastated and homicidal father of a kidnapped daughter in Taken. Yes, this too is a compelling and chilling drama that keeps you gripped and takes you to an empathetic ‘what if it were me?’ place, but that’s where the similarity ends. The plot, the characters, the twists in the adventure, are different and impressive, and to bundle it up with Taken as a job lot, merely because Neeson is convincing as a desperate man with nothing left to lose, does the film, and Neeson himself, an injustice.
Extras Include: “Liam Neeson: Known Action Hero” / Featurette: The Story / Behind The Scenes / Red Carpet Footage / Soundbites and B Roll / Berlin Film Festival EPK / Trailer / Interviews
Unknown is release on DVD & Blu-ray – 18th July 2011.