'Unknown' Review By moviegeek

"Do you know what it feels like to become insane?"
  • OVERALL
    3.0
    WORTHY
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Directing
  • Visuals
Unknown is obliged to give us a twist we never saw coming. If it didn't, then it would just be spinning its wheels. We know that Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) has been in a car accident with cab driver, Gina (Diane Kruger), and has now seemingly lost his identity. He awakens from a coma with no ID to his wife who no longer recognizes him. He franticly tries to piece together the clues to find out why his identity was "taken" (I couldn't resist).

I don't want to give you any more information because it's simply unnecessary. The film has been marketed well to make you think you know what will happen, only to be blind-sided later. The twist I mentioned earlier is so preposterous--so ridiculously far out in left field--that when it's unveiled, you won't believe it's the truth. And you know what? I loved it.

The twist doesn't betray what we already know. It somehow, some way fits into the film. There is an absurd fascination in this project that takes its collages of clues and makes them memorable. Unknown has too many pieces for its own good, but the final product is what audiences will treasure. You won't soon forget this film.

But enough about the twist. The elements that build this film are where the road gets bumpy. The movie has a great opening and closing act, but to fill time, the screenplay doesn't add to either element. It just clutters them. A few false leads have to be thrown into a thriller like this, but Unknown has nothing but dead leads, creating a frustrating middle section of empty action and energy.

That's not to say that the film is not entertaining. It is. And for two very different reasons. Firstly, the action is splendidly directed and shot. Each car chase and shootout is intense and beautifully captured. The camerawork is smooth, the music is energetic, and the film is well-paced. But Unknown is also entertaining because of many unintentionally funny moments. The dialogue is painfully cheesy. There are also some continuity errors. Take when Neeson is showering and he hears men breaking into the apartment he is in. He escapes out a window, but he is instantaneously fully-clothed--shoes, jacket, everything. Also, how does he obtain his money after the accident? Whether it's paying cab drivers or making phone calls, he always seems to have just enough on hand.

One of the funniest moments comes when Gina is driving in a van, trying to find Martin. Meanwhile, Martin is in a parking garage talking with an old associate. Their discussion becomes heated, and Martin shouts at him. But driving nearly two blocks away, Gina turns and looks at the garage when she hears his shout-through a closed car window!

One of the more frustrating things about this film, and it comes with any film of its kind, is the remembrance of information from the amnesiac patient. Martin remembers key things when the screenplay demands it, but there is no real rhyme or reason to what he can or can't remember. Can he remember the large details that would answer the main questions to the plot? Of course not. Otherwise we wouldn't have a movie. But can he remember the six-number combination on his briefcase? Most assuredly. The little details aren't all too important.

Unknown never takes itself too seriously, but that is part of its problem. I feel that the film actually had the potential to be really good. It has a great setup, smart characters, terrific action, and a fantastic twist. But some of the moments are so lazily underwhelming, that it forfeits its own potential. Thankfully, the cast is more motivated than the crew. Neeson, Kruger, and a supporting cast including Frank Langella and January Jones all put fire into their performances. But even their convincing performances can't outshine all of the material.

The ending is also rather unsatisfying. After all is said and done, we don't get a conclusion. Nothing really falls into place, it just stops moving. The trauma and intensity cease too quickly. The end is too mellow and light; too fragile for its own good. Characters also make rough transformations from beginning to end. But the ending is only one of the problems littered throughout this film.

Unknown doesn't work. But I almost want to recommend it. There were many moments that caught me entirely off-guard. The film looks beautiful. It's well-acted, well-edited, and unique. Unknown is a film that grows on you after viewing it. The screenplay is dead, there are superfluous characters, the dialogue is corny, there are errors in continuity, and the ending is abrupt. But amidst all of its errors, the film will do one thing for you that maybe no other film has or possibly ever will do in 2011: It will catch you by surprise.

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Comments (15)

  1. Ms Poirot

    I wasn't particularly impressed with this movie too. I felt that too many things happened after the twist such that the twist is overshadowed. I agree that the car chase scene is great.

    3 years agoby @ms-poirotFlag

  2. Jakn

    Good Review. I just found this movie okay.

    4 years agoby @jaknFlag

  3. Worth5Bucks

    @moviegeek for me that twist just made the film exactly like bourne, it was a surprising twist but not a very original one. The other thing that bugged the hell out of me was, for the past 2 years liam neeson has done several films where he seems embarrassed the whole time (Clash of the titans, ponyo, etc.) so obviously i wanted to see a liam neeson film where he wasn't embarrassed the whole time, then on more than several occasions in the film he said he was embarrassed haha.

    4 years agoby @mattbierwagenFlag

  4. fanboy

    Excellent review my friend, Im still looking forward to seeing this

    4 years agoby @fanboyFlag

  5. moviegeek

    Thanks everyone :D

    @mattbierwagen I didn't predict it at all lol. I was gonna give this a 2.5 right when I walked out, but the twist grew on me enough to raise it .5 :)

    4 years agoby @moviegeekFlag

  6. Corey W.

    I like the review good sir! I think I'm seeing this on Saturday for the hell of it.

    4 years agoby @coreyFlag

  7. Worth5Bucks

    @moviegeek another fantastic review, but a surprising opinion. I personally couldn't stand this movie, even the twist for me was half expected. I found the money I spent on The Adjustment Bureau much more 'worth5bucks' than Unknown.

    @slysnide I actually had low expectations for both this and Taken, I loved Taken, disliked this.

    4 years agoby @mattbierwagenFlag

  8. Wichy

    Great review pal, another solid take on this movie. I actually expected this to be terrible, but you may have sold me on a rental. I like your take on the 'twist' of the plot. I like a movie with a well orchestrated twist. Thanks for the heads-up.

    4 years agoby @wichitagalzlFlag

  9. slysnide

    Hm. Sounds like "Taken: Part 2." Both films seemed to have potential, and both fell short of meeting expectations. No, I didn't this one, but from what you say it sounds like the writers overly relied on absurd logic for this 'action hero' to succeed. A total AML reliant film. I'll skip this.

    4 years agoby @slysnideFlag

  10. thedude-abides

    Man...I don't know if I can deal with that amount of bad dialogue and continuity errors. Little things like that r what bother me most about movies today.

    This is an HBO watch for me simply because of the entertainment factor. Great job giving insight to the actual film, and not just harking on the technical aspects. Awesome review.

    4 years agoby @thedude-abidesFlag

  11. moviegeek

    @diaigma@skywise Thanks guys :)

    4 years agoby @moviegeekFlag

  12. Diaigma

    You said it all. It's very refreshing to read reviews from you again, my level-headed friend :)

    4 years agoby @diaigmaFlag

  13. skywise

    sounds like an interesting movie at the very least. Prolly wait for rental. great review.

    4 years agoby @skywiseFlag

  14. moviegeek

    A very good choice @dan1

    4 years agoby @moviegeekFlag

  15. Dan

    Definitely a rental, I'm willing to give it a shot in that format. Thanks for the review, sir!

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag