Like other Neeson vehicles of late, it finds our hero with an insurmountable task to perform, a sort of Mission: Unknown here, but unlike previous endeavours such as Taken, a film I found to be extremely powerful, or indeed the Mission: Impossible franchise, this latest effort left me rather cold. It lacks the purpose and integrity of his previous films and places him squarely in the hard man mould, which I do not feel he meets as comfortably without an intelligent storyline or mythology to work with.
The film begins with the arrival to Berlin of Dr Martin Harris and his wife, played by the adored January Jones of Mad Men fame. We quickly find out that he is there for a conference and spoon fed the critical importance of his briefcase that is lost within the first few minutes. This is what causes Dr Harris to get into Gina’s cab (Diane Kruger) with the aim of returning to the airport where his case was left upon arrival, but he never gets there.
A road accident sees him being saved by Kruger, hospitalised and after missing for a few days, finding it nigh impossible to reenter his life. His loving wife, his colleagues and all others he has come to contact with do not recognise him and with his identity in question he finds himself in a strange city doing, what to me seemed, relatively strange and somewhat predictable things.
Jaume Collet-Serra’s direction adds some pace but is more concerned with lingering shots of what he perceives to the important things: the briefcase, the hanging bag, Prof Bressler’s (played by Sebastian Koch) daughters, January Jones’s posterior, and the story remains lacklustre which leaves us watching the plotholes go by when we should be carried quickly along past them.. Neeson plays it as though he means it, but above all it is the women that impress in this film, especially Kruger, who does not require a glitzy ball gown to shine.
If I was to be kind I would say that this film tried to do too much in attempting to incorporate famine, scientific innovation, religious and cultural contradictions, charity and the complexity of human relations as themes and it was this rather than a poor script and lack of direction that brought on my existential crisis less than half way through it. I watched it out of curiosity and would not warn you off it completely, but I doubt you will find it particularly satisfying and will probably be left feeling like watching a more authentic example of the action genre or just a different film from Neeson’s back catalogue as soon after as possible.
- Unknown: The Story: Concept to screen which reinforces the notion that this extended Twilight Zone espisode gained a lot from its lead actor’s previous form, which leads us nicely to…
- Liam Neeson: Known Action Hero: Perfunctory look at the remarkable transformation of Neeson into an action star – not exactly steeped in depth and would have benefitted with a lttle historical context.
- Behind The Scenes: Behind the Scenes.
- Interviews with Liam Neeson, January Jones, Diane Kruger, Jaume Collet-Serra and Joel Silver