|'works hard to keep you in the dark, allowing brief guesses at what might be going on but hinting that, at any moment, someone might rip their face off a la Mission: Impossible'|
It is very difficult to get away from comparing Liam Neeson vehicle Unknown with Liam Neeson vehicle Taken, so much so that the header for my notes on this particular offering - following a Neeson-in-an-identity-crisis around Berlin - read, 'Taken'.
That the film might suffer its own identity crisis then is a given. There are vague hints early on (and from the trailer) that we might be dealing somewhere in the espionage field, as Neeson's Dr. Martin Harris starts to suspect he is being followed in a subway, escalating to several more definable acts of subterfuge, culminating in the necessary arrival of ex-Stasi agent Ernst Jürgen (Bruno Ganz) to help him out.
Unknown's main victory then is in the fact that it is both different and individually satisfying enough from Neeson's similar recent work to recommend it. More than that actually, Unknown is a damn good thriller. It works hard to keep you in the dark, allowing brief guesses at what might be going on but hinting that, at any moment, someone might rip their face off à la Mission: Impossible and turn the whole thing on its head. The conclusion and reveal are satisfying, Neeson tearing round any given city attempting to find information will never become boring and the character motivations are ultimately well thought-out.
The problems too come in small batches, easy enough to largely ignore. Harris has a slightly annoying habit of only retaining his amnesia when a crucial plot point is on the end of his tongue, remembering more complicated things like phone numbers whenever required. January Jones, here with a chance to shine outside of Mad Men, is very poor indeed, not helping her cause to claim she's a talent to watch where other failures elsewhere (X-Men: First Class, Justice) could have justifiably been blamed on the material given to her.
These issues though crop up infrequently enough to bypass, Jones marginalised earlier on in favour of the much-more-comfortable-in-these-sort-of-shoes Diane Kruger, who proves a good foil for Neeson. Neeson himself is, as usual, a tomb-like performer, weighting every scene with equal parts heft, threat and clarity. A very accomplished mainstream crowd-pleaser.
Unknown was playing on Lovefilm's Watch Online service, for users with an appropriate subscription.
'If you manage to survive the unengaging narrative you’ll be met with a twist that unfortunately is not very creative or unexpected. A disappointing performance from Liam Neeson and the underused quality of Diane Kruger results in an unsatisfying film' - Remote Reviews