Unknown - Catholic Courier

Unknown

NEW YORK (CNS) — The twists and turns of director Jaume Collet-Serra’s reasonably diverting thriller “Unknown” (Warner Bros.) — which benefits from Liam Neeson’s strong presence in its central role — will strike some viewers as cleverly surprising, but perhaps more as too tough to swallow.

Despite a late-reel conversion story, moreover, there is little to offer in this brain-teaser — based on French writer Didier van Cauwelaert’s novel — beyond surface entertainment, while sexual scenes and other elements preclude endorsement for any but adults.
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Neeson plays accomplished American botanist Martin Harris. Visiting Berlin for a biotechnology conference — with his seemingly devoted wife, Elizabeth (January Jones), in tow — Harris is traveling alone in a taxi when a traffic accident leaves him seriously injured.
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Awakening in the hospital a few days later, Martin is confused to learn that no one, Elizabeth included, has made any effort to find him. His confusion deepens into bewilderment when he returns to his hotel to discover that Elizabeth has no idea who he is and that a stranger (Aidan Quinn) has assumed his identity.
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Martin’s efforts to unravel this mystery — is he suffering from some sort of delusion as a result of brain trauma? — are eventually aided by Gina (Diane Kruger), the cab driver who saved his life in the smashup, and by her friend Ernst Jurgen (Bruno Ganz), an ex-East German secret police official now working as a private investigator.
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The pointed humor with which Ganz enriches this contradictory character — a sympathetic figure who is nonetheless proud of his Stasi past — is another of the film’s draws.
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Predictably, a bond develops between Martin and Gina, who — being an illegal immigrant from Bosnia — has troubles of her own. But Martin’s enduring loyalty to Elizabeth keeps this new relationship strictly platonic.
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As the arrival of Rodney Cole (Frank Langella), the stateside friend and colleague to whom Martin turns to confirm his story, begins to fill in both Martin and the audience on what’s really taking place, Martin faces a significant moral choice, one about which Gina does her best to influence him in the right direction.
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That’s pretty much the sole serious ingredient to be found in this otherwise unassuming concoction. But, in a season when Hollywood turns out many a cinematic souffle that falls thoroughly flat, mature audiences could easily find worse fare to chew on than this better-than-half-baked puzzler.
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The film contains brief semi-graphic marital lovemaking, considerable hand-to-hand violence, a suicide, fleeting sexual humor, a few uses of profanity and a couple of instances each of crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.
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