Saturday, 18 February 2012

Unknown (2011)

Having had a bit of a resurgence in recent years, Liam Neeson shows again how he is surprisingly suited to action films. Dr Martin Harris (Neeson) arrives in Berlin with his wife Elizabeth (January Jones) to give a seminar at a Biotech conference. When checking into their hotel, Martin realises he has forgotten a bag at the airport and heads back in a taxi to fetch it; unfortunately the taxi (driven by Gina: Diane Kruger) has an accident, crashing through a bridge and plunging into the river. Despite being rescued by Gina, Martin loses consciousness, is in a coma for four days, and wakes up suffering from amnesia; and so he sets out to discover who he really is.

The film does have a resemblance to a few other films of the “discovering yourself” genre, but I won’t go into any detail as that would constitute a huge spoiler. Liam Neeson is solid as Martin, giving a sense of believability to the situation; his calm yet imposing presence works really well, as it did in The Grey. Surrounding Liam is an impressive cast; Diane Kruger and January Jones are both beautiful, Diane in particular being a natural partner for Liam; Sebastian Koch is Professor Bressler; Frank Langella as the suspicious Rodney Cole; and a great role for the führer himself: Bruno Ganz - this time as an ex-Stasi agent.

Undoubtedly, the other main character is the city of Berlin itself. Director Jaume Collet-Serra mentions how the city itself is still searching for its identity, due to the disruptions of the War and the Wall. Having lived there for two years I can certainly confirm this. In one sense it wants to move on from its past for obvious reasons, but in another it is trying hard to establish itself in the world, and it can’t do that without recognising its history. It was great being in Berlin during the 2006 World Cup and seeing the population being really proud again.

A very enjoyable film, kept us guessing until near the end, strong performances from Liam and Diane, as well as from a more than capable supporting cast. I always enjoy seeing Berlin in films, and some of the action set-pieces make full use of the city; in particular there is a great car-chase - it even involves a truck from one of the local breweries!