DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
UNKNOWN (director: Jaume Collet-Serra; screenwriters: Oliver Butcher/Stephen Cornwell/from the novel "Out of My Head" by Didier Van Cauwelaert; cinematographer: Flavio Labiano; editor: Tim Alverson; music: John Ottman/Alexander Rudd; cast: Liam Neeson (Dr. Martin Harris), Diane Kruger (Gina), January Jones (Elizabeth Harris), Aidan Quinn (Martin B), Bruno Ganz (Ernst Jürgen), Frank Langella (Rodney Cole), Sebastian Koch (Professor Bressler); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Leonard Goldberg/Andrew Rona/Joel Silver; Warner Bros. Pictures; 2011)

 
"After all the storyline conveniences kick in, this amnesia story becomes forgettable, implausible, regrettable and indigestible."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra ("Orphan"/"House of Wax") directs this absurd thriller about identity theft that gets more ridiculous as it offers a preposterous new twist at every turn. But at least it's entertaining at times (sort of like getting off on junk food, without ever mistaken it for health food) and moves at an appealingly fast pace. The 59-year-old Liam Neeson as an action hero (parts he's taken on late in his career) gives the pic some smarts and a sympathetic character you want to believe in, though you may wonder what he's doing in this kind of crap and if the senior citizen can really pack a wallop in his punch. Also the always reliable Bruno Ganz and Frank Langella in supporting roles make up, with their usual good performances, for the mostly stiff acting by the rest of the cast. The screenplay by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell is based on the 2003 French novel "Out of My Head" by Didier Van Cauwelaert, as the writers eschew character development, logic, and plot coherency in favor of pushing to get in every blockbuster thriller scenario it can manage: from a number of well-choreographed car chases and a plot line Macguffin.

The American biotech research scientist, Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson), is in Berlin with his beautiful wife Liz (January Jones) for an important international Biotech summit. The keynote speaker, Dr. Bressler (Sebastian Koch), promises a breakthrough in food biotech to help feed the world's hungry. Before checking in to the Hotel Adlon, Martin grabs a taxi back to the airport without telling his wife, as he goes to retrieve a missing briefcase he left on a baggage trolley that has his passport and other important documents. On the snowy day in November, his taxi gets into an accident and winds up in the river. Martin winds up in the hospital and is in a coma for four days until he awakens with some memory loss. When he goes to meet his wife at the hotel, she doesn't recognize him and is with another man (Aidan Quinn) who has assumed his identity. The authorities don't believe Martin, and he has no papers to back up his story. The flustered Martin tries to contact his boss Rodney Cole (Frank Langella) back in New Hampshire to confirm his identity, but can't make contact. The nurse who treated him at the hospital suggests he hire an expert detective in locating missing persons, Ernst Jürgen (Bruno Ganz). The elderly man turns out to be a former Stasi officer, who decides to help the troubled Martin because he believes him and is curious about where it will lead. Martin then makes contact with the courageous lady taxi driver, Gina (Diane Kruger, a German actress), who saved his life from drowning and then ran away from the scene because she's an illegal Bosnian immigrant. From here on there are vicious hit men after them both and they have to go on the run while trying to figure out why someone would want to take his place, as the pic hits the asphalt and never stops from skidding out-of-control as far as its credibility.

After all the storyline conveniences kick in, this amnesia story becomes forgettable, implausible, regrettable and indigestible. But it does take you for awhile (maybe some 80 minutes) on a thrilling Hitchcock 'wrong man' ride, it just fails to reach a Hitchcock-like sophistication in its storytelling and to offer more than a gimmicky story. Too bad, because this young director shows some ability as a craftsman, knows how to hold the viewers' interest in his storytelling and knows how to shoot action scenes the public is drawn to--he should just stop mucking about with terrible twists and third acts.

REVIEWED ON 2/19/2011       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED   DENNIS SCHWARTZ

http://www.sover.net/~ozus/index.htm