Monday, May 23, 2011

Cheap Critic: Unknown

cheapcritic


Depending on how you choose to look at it Unknown is either totally derivative or completely original. The Liam Neeson film is a mosaic put together from the plots of other popular films in much the same way a designer patchwork quilt is pieced together from other things.

The acting is generally good. Neeson is well-suited to his part and plays it very well. One interesting aspect of this sort of stolen-identity thriller is that you get to have two romantic interests -- the wife that is part of the stolen identity and the girl our hero meets while trying to deal with the theft -- January Jones and Diane Kruger play these two roles, respectively, and are quite good. Bruno Ganz has a nice little role as a retired East German secret policeman and he provides the most interesting performance in the film from an acting perspective. Frank Langella has a good scene with Ganz but is otherwise underused. The rest of the cast hit their marks and say their lines in a perfectly professional manner but it is all in the service of the script and nobody particularly stands out.

Aside from rather a lot of well-done car chase scenes the main interest in Unknown is the plot which, as I said, is pieced together from the plots of various spy thrillers and light science fiction films. In Unknown the protagonist is a scientist on his way to a biotech conference who has an automobile accident and, when he wakes up from his four-day coma, discovers that someone else has assumed his identity. This is a well-used setup and the interesting thing about Unknown is that, rather than trying to find a new angle, it takes a number of previous similar films and braids their plots together. After the accident Neeson is confused about who he is, and so are we; is he Matt Damon from the Bourne Identity? or Gary Sinese from The Forgotten? Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall? Frank Sinatra in The Manchurian Candidate? Harrison Ford in Bladerunner? Unknown zigs and zags from one familiar plot to another. We've seen all the endings -- the main suspense is to guess which strand of the braid we will be following when we get to the scunci.

1 comment:

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