Thursday, March 10, 2011

UNKNOWN - Sequel of Sorts to 'Taken'

UNKNOWN (suspense thriller)
Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, Frank Langella and Sebastian Koch
Screenplay: Oliver Butcher & Stephen Cornwell, based on the novel by Didier Van Cauwelaert
Time: 108 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Diane Kruge and Liam Neeson in UNKNOWN

PREAMBLE: With Liam Neeson headlining this suspense thriller, you would think that it is the sequel of sorts to the hugely popular Taken of 2008. But it is not. Unknown is based on the 2003 novel Out of My Head by Didier Van Cauwelaert, while Taken is written for the screen by director Luc Besson.

Unknown can be as preposterous as Taken, but those who expect the same sort of kick-ass action will be disappointed. On the surface, Unknown appears to be a smarter movie, with one plot twist after another. However, it ends up twisting logic too - at the end of the film.

Neeson, Kruger and Bruno Ganz

THE SKINNY: Dr Martin Harris (Neeson) arrives in Berlin with his wife Liz (January Jones) for a biotechnology summit but is involved in an accident with taxi driver Gina (Diane Kruger) and winds up in hospital under a coma. When he wakes up four days later, he is horrified to discover that his wife doesn't know who he is, and another man (Aidan Quinn) has taken his identity.

Desperate to get his life back, Martin seeks help from both Gina and a former East German Stasi agent named Jurgen (Bruno Ganz) who takes up the case partly because it reminds him of the good old days. Meanwhile a pair of killers (Stipe Erceg and Olivier Schneider) target both Martin and Gina and they soon find themselves on the run. To uncover the truth, Martin needs the help of Prof Rodney Cole (Frank Langella) but it is Thanksgiving in the US, and he is on vacation.

HITS AND MISSES: I must admit that I am not a fan of Taken. Revenge movies are easy to write and Taken is mostly an excuse for ridiculous action sequences and an insult to one's intelligence. Unknown, however, doesn't pile up on the action. Instead, it keeps us in suspense for two-thirds of the movie (trying to figure out who Martin is) - and then, when we finally get to discover who he is, we start to put together the pieces of the puzzle - and assemble the foundations of its logic (if any).

Spanish director Jaume Collet-Saura maintains a taut pace throughout, keeping us from thinking about the plot-holes in the script. There are some nail-biting fight and chase sequences topped up by an excitingly-staged climax. But, as expected, it is basically a Neeson vehicle, providing a solid presence throughout the movie, and well supported by Diane Kruger and January Jones. Bruno Ganz is also memorable as the former Communist spy who now has a problem fitting into free society.

THE LOWDOWN: If you liked Taken, this one is also for you.


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