Unknown functions pretty much as The Bourne Identity meets Salt, but sadly is closer to the latter in terms of quality. The film is mildly entertaining, if you can overlook the incredulity.
Dr Martin Harris arrives in Berlin with his wife, to attend a conference. After forgetting his briefcase at the airport, Martin heads back in a cab to collect it, but does not make it there after a car accident. When Martin wakes, he finds that someone else has taken his identity…
The narrative of Unknown is comparable to that of a television special or a made-for-TV movie. The plot appears hackneyed; it is easy to spot the numerous ideas borrowed from other films. The twists in Unknown become more incredulous as the film continues, requiring a healthy suspension of disbelief.
Where Unknown differentiates itself from similar television specials and cements itself as a Hollywood film is in the large-scale set pieces. The stunts and action sequences are well executed, and really help in injecting momentum into the film. As an action film, Unknown works well; it is a pity that a similar level of effort was not put into the script.
The narrative of Unknown is propped up by a number of twists. These are critical to a thriller such as this, but unfortunately each turn makes the film more ridiculous. What does not help is the fact that each revealing piece of information is accompanied by heightened music. It is as if the sound editor is attempting to compel the audience to feel shocked at the revelations. However, this does not have the desired effect, and at times can appear unintentionally comical.
As Martin Harris, Liam Neeson is a watchable protagonist. The role is definitely in Neeson’s comfort zone, and is never a stretch for him. January Jones appears artificial as Elizabeth Harris; she is never really that believable at any stage in the film. Diane Kruger is decent as unwitting taxi driver Gina, although her Eastern European accent is patchy. Frank Langella is underused in Unknown. The veteran actor has such presence; it is a shame that he was not given a meatier role.
Combining the plot of a TV movie with the aesthetics of a big-budget Hollywood film, Unknown fails to hit the target. It is by no means painful viewing, but it is unlikely to win much praise either. Recommended viewing for those who enjoyed Salt.