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Movie Review: Unknown

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Who am I?

This is the driving question behind the action movie Unknown, which stars Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, and January Jones. The movie begins with Liam Neeson’s character, Dr. Martin Harris, and his wife (January Jones) flying to Berlin for a conference on biotechnology. When they arrive at their hotel, Harris realizes he doesn’t have his briefcase. Without telling his wife where he is going, he jumps into a cab to retrieve the briefcase from the airport. Unfortunately the taxi is involved in an accident that sends it diving head first into a river.

When Harris wakes up, he is informed that he was in a coma for four days. He can’t remember much from before the accident and he has no identification. After waiting a day or two for someone to claim him, Harris checks himself out of the hospital against the doctor’s orders and goes in search of his wife. With the little bit that he does remember, he finds her at a reception. But instead of being ecstatic to see him, she treats him like a stranger. Worse, there is another man there who claims to be Dr. Martin Harris!

Although this was your basic action film complete with car chases and butt kicking, I enjoyed watching this movie. Liam Neeson is an excellent actor who convincingly portrays the character’s confused, yet determined, push to find out the truth. To be honest, though, he is essentially playing the same character from the movie Taken, except with a different plotline. The supporting characters also did their part to make this a decent movie worth watching.

Unknown with Liam NeesonI found the storyline to be thought provoking and felt the movie did an excellent job of revealing relevant information without giving away the ending. When I first started watching Unknown, I was totally expecting some type of ultimate identity theft scam that had been instigated by the wife. Therefore, I was genuinely surprised when the truth was revealed. Trust me, you won’t see it coming.

There were several elements in the movie that I found to be very interesting. First, the movie gives a different view of illegal immigration that we don’t often see in the United States. Diane Kruger’s character, Gina, is an illegal immigrant who moved to Berlin from Bosnia. The taxi she was driving belonged to friend of hers who let her borrow it to make extra money so she could afford to get her papers. I found this detail significant because there is a tendency in America to believe illegal immigration is something that is unique to this country. The reality is every country in the world is struggling with this concern.

The other element that intrigued me was the issue of identity and how easily our identity can be stripped away from us. The biggest problem Neeson’s character struggled with in was the loss of documents confirming his identity. With no passport or other legal identification, he couldn’t prove who he was and his freedom of movement was severely restricted. He couldn’t even rent a cheap room at a seedy hotel without producing some type of identification.

Secondly, he had very little memory of his past, which begs the question posed at the start of this article. Who are we really? Are we just a collection of memories and experiences? If you woke up with amnesia and no way to find out who you are, then are you still the same person? What if you were a killer, but then after losing your memory you became a philanthropist who worked to save lives? What then?

All in all, Unknown is worth the 113 minutes of your life to watch it. If you saw the movie, I’d be interested in knowing what you thought of it and the concepts the movie is based on.

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