BRAND NEW ON E!
Review in a Hurry: With his mighty vertical stature and distinctive voice (even when he's trying to badly affect other accents), Liam Neeson is tough to mistake for anybody else. So if he's confused about who he is, rest assured it must have taken a powerfully evil plot to make that happen. Try not to think too hard about it, and you'll enjoy watching him beat his way back to total recall.
The Bigger Picture: En route to a biotech conference in Berlin, Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) is momentarily distracted at the airport and leaves his briefcase behind. Returning to get it in a hurry, while riding in the cab of the improbably beautiful and kind illegal immigrant Gina (Diane Kruger), he encounters an equally improbable accident involving a flying fridge, and ends up being plunged into the nearby river.
After waking up in a hospital without ID, Harris tries to find his way back to his wife (January Jones), only to have her claim she doesn't know him and that a complete stranger (Aidan Quinn) is in fact the actual Martin Harris! This is borne out by the fact that Harris II has a driver's license and a passport backing him up—not to mention a university website that prominently displays his picture.
It's best not to know more than that if you intend to see the film. And you should, if propulsive, gleefully preposterous suspense starring a vehemently righteous Northern-Irish actor pretending to be American happens to be your thing. If you stop to analyze too much, you'll lose any suspension of disbelief. But thankfully, director Jaume Collet-Sera (Orphan, House of Wax), doesn't give you enough space to do that as he speeds from one plot point to the next, ignoring a handful of issues. Issues such as, it's ridiculous that anyone with a voice as easily identifiable as Neeson's could ever be mistaken for somebody else, yet at one point, a character who has supposedly talked to him on the phone many times can't tell that Aidan Quinn sounds totally dissimilar.
Sure, the involvement of an all-knowing character played by the great Bruno Ganz is wonderfully coincidental (as so much in this film is), but hey, scary, all-knowing Germans are everywhere, right? And while Frank Langella, theoretically in an ambiguous role, is more transparently villainous here than he was as Skeletor in Masters of the Universe, the audience gets his malicious intentions long before Neeson's character ever catches on. But it doesn't matter. Heroic, self-righteous rage is the point.
In other words, despite the straight-faced performance of its protagonist, Unknown isn't a movie to be taken seriously. Some may say it's sad that an Oscar-caliber actor like Liam Neeson is essentially doing early Schwarzenegger; we say it's awesome.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Why, in a movie set in Berlin, would you cast German-born Diane Kruger and have her play an illegal immigrant from Eastern Europe? It's a head scratcher on a par with Sean Connery playing a Spaniard in Highlander.