I'm starting to get the impression that 2011 is the year of movies with amazing concepts. Black Swan, The Adjustment bureau, Limitless and now, Unknown, are all examples of great movie concepts, with a varying degree of effectiveness when the final product of the script comes to life onscreen.
"Unknown" focuses on Dr Martin Harris, who is attending a biochemistry conference in Berlin with his wife, Elizabeth Harris. On his way back to collect a suitcase he left behind at the airport, he is involved in a car accident that puts him in a coma for four days and causes him to experience amnesia. Once he releases who he is, he sets out to find his wife, only to realise that another man has stolen his entire identity: Everything including his name, his job, his passport and even his wife are now in another man's hands, who claims to be the real Dr Martin Harris. Harris battles with his identity and questions his own sanity constantly in this fast paced, action thriller.
Liam Neeson (Who my friend finds attractive...) did an amazing job acting this role and portraying the characters sense of confusion over his sanity to the audience subtly. January Jones (Harris' wife in the film) gave small hints along the way to the audience about the relationship between her and Harris, she plays the role of the innocent wife just as well as the slightly more dangerous part she plays in the later part of the movie. The real star of the show was Ernst Jurgen (Bruno Ganz), a former Stasi officer who helps Harris try to prove his identity. For the little screentime he is given, he fairly makes a last impression on the audience as a memorable character, especially in his final,
Jaume Collet-Serra uses basic directing techniques to a great effect. Serra manages to build up tension in all the right places and creates conflicting morals in the viewer by the end of the film, stirring an uncertainty over who is the "real" villains in the plot. Perhaps Serra was influenced by fellow director, Christopher Nolan, and his infamous slow motion scene in which a car is driven over the bridge, as a scene very similar to this is shown in "Unknown". The sense of dizzying confusion is built by a very gentle camera rotation in the early scenes of the film, where Neeson's character is just beginning to identify with his amnesia, after essentially escaping from the Hospital in which he has
just recovered from a coma.
The plot is the thing that should sell "Unknown" to you. It is written professionally with a twist that could even make Shylamalan drop his popcorn in shock. Think back to last year's release "Shutter Island" and your confusion over which character's story to believe: the "antagonist" or the protagonist, who has allowed the audience to witness a story unfolding firsthand, albeit a very one sided one. "Unknown" has achieved the same feat, it has made audiences question the very character who's eyes they are seeing through. And in modern day, "heavily-predictable" cinema, that is an achievement in itself.