PHOTOS | COMING SOON| EXAMINER.COM FILM ARTICLES ||HOME
Friday, February 18, 2011
A Memory's Fugitive: "Taken", "Shattered", "Game"-d
Diane Kruger as Gina and Liam Neeson as Martin Harris. He's a doctor, so he says. And his world has turned upside down. Warner Brothers
by Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com FOLLOW
Friday, February 18, 2011
There are known knowns, known unknowns, and then there's "Unknown", the thriller directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. And I'm not sure that this film, which opened today across the U.S. and Canada, knows what it is.
Set in Berlin, Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) is in town for a conference of scientists and political leaders. He's already absent-minded, having left a briefcase on a trolley by the Berlin airport. Elizabeth (January Jones) and Martin are married. She checks in to the hotel. He remembers that he's forgotten the brief case. A frantic dash, a crazy crash...and Martin forgets that he's forgotten. Soon, another man, in true "I Am Spartacus" fashion, proclaims that he is Martin Harris. Elizabeth doesn't remember being married to him either.
Poor Martin. He may not be Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, but he's invisible enough to be a nobody.
As an existential drama and doppelganger dilemma "Unknown" is mostly laughable. Martin has never been to Berlin before but he knows almost every nook and cranny of its streets. This just days after his coma. Couldn't Martin have solved his own identity in five minutes with DNA, fingerprints and some common sense?
"Unknown" culls the best moments of dramas like Wolfgang Peterson's "Shattered", David Fincher's "The Game" and more directly Pierre Morel's "Taken", and stretches them like an elastic band to their outer limits. The elastic band however, doesn't contract. Where the compact "Taken" was a taut, brutish thriller with blunt edges, "Unknown" is a sloppy Joe mismatch, bloated with multiple storylines that don't fit smoothly enough to hold interest.
Watching "Unknown" is to watch a restless, unruly film with too many characters shoehorned into cracks, causing a friction that doesn't create a spark. We barely know any of the people on this busy canvas. And one, Gina (Diane Kruger), doesn't really want to know Martin. She's a taxi driver from Bosnia looking to become "legal", and she'll do what it takes to stay in Germany.
One of the few bright spots in this empty drama is the legendary Bruno Ganz. He adds a sincerity and levity making his presence in Mr. Collet-Serra's film more poignant than anything. It's an emotion that "Unknown" doesn't deserve. When you watch "Unknown" you are watching Martin stagger around in a daze, trying to figure out which movie he's supposed to belong to. There are multiple movies flickering before us and Martin walks from one into another. "Unknown" could have taken the novel it is based on (Out Of My Head by Didier Van Cauwelaert) and made it interesting and intriguing, but it is neither.
The staging of the film's action sequences are uninspired, with lots of camera shakes. There was a time in film when you could see people wrestling and throwing punches. You could see this so clearly to the point where when a man hit a woman in a film the woman being hit was actually a man in make-up. Just look at some of Clint Eastwood's films ("Sudden Impact") and numerous others to see this.
When a grand mess like "Unknown" becomes a Jonas Salk-like reveal, it's easy to conclude that Mr. Salk himself might have said, "don't patent the sun, and don't even try to patent a movie like "Unknown"."
(Take a look at the posters for "Taken" and "Unknown". Look familiar or similar?)
Fox Warner Brothers
With: Aidan Quinn, Sebastian Koch, Frank Langella, Olivier Schneider, Rainer Bock, Clint Dyer, Mido Hamada.
"Unknown" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sexual content. The film's running time is one hour and 53 minutes.
COPYRIGHT 2011. POPCORNREEL.COM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. FOLLOW
SUBSCRIBE TO THE POPCORN REEL MOVIE REVIEWS RSS FEED