Jaume Collet-Serra‘s new movie Unknown, freshly released in theaters yesterday (February 18, 2011), definitely deserves to be known to viewers, internationally. This movie, based on a French novel by Didier van Cauwerlaert, with screenplays in English by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell, has incredibly compelling characterizations and puts the “thriller” back in the rather formulaic genre of spy thriller.
Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) arrives in Berlin for an important Biotech conference where his German colleague is about to release a new type of corn that adapts to any climate. This important discovery will help alleviate world hunger. After the couple reaches the hotel, Dr. Harris realizes that he forgot a briefcase with valuable secret information. On impulse, he takes a taxi back to the airport to retrieve it. On the way, he has an unexpected accident that lands the taxi into a river. Gina (Diane Kruger), an Albanian immigrant who is his taxi driver, saves his life and disappears before the police shows up.
After he recovers from a brief coma, Dr. Harris goes back to his posh hotel, only to discover that his wife, Elizabeth (January Jones), is at a reception with another man who claims to be the real Dr. Harris. To his shock, Elizabeth denies knowing him. The rest of the plot, filled with twists and suspense–but above all with strong character development–follows Dr. Harris’s efforts to reconnect with his wife, reclaim his stolen identity and elude the hitmen who are out to get not just him, but also anyone who seeks to protect him.
Liam Neeson plays his role compellingly, as a human being one can relate to not just another action hero. Diane Kruger, cast in the role of the Albanian taxi driver, is just as rich and multidimensional in her acting. She’s probably the most sympathetic character in the movie, as she reveals real courage and integrity in her efforts to protect Harris. An equally compelling character is a former Stasi agent, played by Bruno Ganz, who helps Harris figure out the machinations of his adversaries and their real identities.
The excellent acting, as well as elements of the plot, call to mind the unforgettable German movie, The Lives of Others (2006), directed by Florian Henchel von Donnersmarck. To top off the excellent acting and sustained dramatic tension, Unknown has a plot twist at the end, that is as surprising as it is believable. From beginning to end this movie, which is amazingly well directed and acted, will leave viewers at the edge of their seats. This is a five star movie, all around.
Claudia Moscovici, Notablewriters.com