Unknown – Liam Neeson vs. a Taxi

And no, I know what review this is.

Unkown and I have a special bond ’cause I had to deal with real life fear while I was watching it. When I entered the theater, I made strong impressions on a lot of the employees, striking up all sorts of random conversations, but what I didn’t tell them was that I had plans to do the unthinkable: I was going to movie-hop. As The King’s Speech drew to a close, I thought I could surreptitiously kill some time by waiting until the end of the credits, but suddenly an employee was there, cleaning, getting closer. I had to get out, but there were still twenty minutes before Unknown started.

I sneaked past all the same employees I’d befriended, pulling my coat up over my face to avoid being recognized on my way to the bathroom. Every face was that of an enemy. I didn’t know who I could trust. Any random viewer might rat me out to the authorities, having seen me leave The King’s Speech. I made it back to my seat, and soon enough the trailers began. I tried to enjoy the movie, but I was on edge the entire time. What if I got caught? What would happen when I left a full four hours after I’d arrived? Every scene was made more tense by my beating heart, so for me, Unknown was an incredible thrill. For my friends, however, it was simply “meh.” Too bad they’re not the ones writing the review!

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) is on a plane with his wife, Elizabeth (January Jones, whose name is as hot as she is), on their way to Berlin. When Harris accidentally leaves a suitcase at the airport, he sends his wife to check in to the hotel while he rushes back to get it, but on the way, his taxi crashes off a bridge. Next thing he knows, his wife has no idea who he is, and to make matters worse, she’s with another man who claims to be Dr. Martin Harris. It’s an exciting setup, and the film does a great job capitalizing on it.

It’s normally hard to review a movie that relies on mystery and revelation, since I don’t want to give too much away, but luckily there were misdirections everywhere, so it would be hard to pick out what’s actually true anyway. Think about the usual explanations for psychological thrillers in which the main character doesn’t know what’s going on. Wake up and it’s all been a dream? Actually crazy the entire time? Some sort of advanced scientific experiment? A giant government conspiracy? The writers doing heavy-duty hallucinogens when they came up with the idea?

Unknown leads you down pretty much every one of those paths. Dream? Check. Liam Neeson’s character, Dr. Martin Harris, is in a coma for four days. Crazy? Check. Even Harris’s wife doesn’t recognize him, plus no one ever saw him check in to the hotel. Advanced science? The film is set at a biotech convention at which Dr. Harris was to give a speech. Government conspiracy? The other Dr. Harris knows everything Liam Neeson does and is furnished with passports, documentation, and even pictures with Neeson’s wife. Is his wife in on it? Is she a prisoner? Does he even have a wife?

These and more are the questions I continuously asked myself, along with things like “Should I have bought popcorn?” and “If I had, would the girl have known I was movie-hopping?” But in all seriousness, Unknown’s relatable characters and sense of constant danger kept me in uneasy suspense at all times. I loved it, but some of my friends were disappointed at the lack of action, thinking that the trailers had misled them. By no means is this an action movie, and anyone going in with that expectation will be severely disappointed. There may be car chases, but they only serve as vehicles for characters to escape. There may be fights, but they are desperate fights for survival, not badass battles full of slick stunts.

As a writer, I’ve always had trouble with two climaxes, but during Unknown it was no problem. The entire movie builds toward the ultimate revelation, and when it finally comes, it’s completely satisfying. But just when you think you’re done, suddenly it starts all over, this time even more intense, for the stakes shoot through the roof. There’s a lot more on the line than just Dr. Harris. The secondary climax is a fast-paced, heart-pounding endeavor with a literally explosive finish. And I was blown away by the ending in which Liam Neeson gets to deliver a fantastic killing move coupled with an equally badass line. I wish I could repeat it, but then people might read too much into it and gain a clue, so just take my word when I say that it is freaking awesome.

I was thrilled, and if I had to guess, I’d say you would be too.

Score: 4/5¢

Alignment: Spectacular Fluff

Hint: He was dead the whole time, and weak to water, and it was actually present day.

Written by Russ Nickel

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