Unknown: Why Method Acting Is Dangerous for Assassins Riding Taxis

Unknown movie poster.I watched another movie last night after the torture that was Trespass because I didn’t want to go to sleep angry. What I watched was Unknown (Wikipedia/IMDB), also on PPStream (未知/不明身份/神秘白种男子/无名杀机/狙击陌生人).

The movie introduces Liam Neeson, as a Dr. Martin Harrison, arriving with his wife Liz (oh hey, it’s Don Draper’s wife) in a snowy Berlin, Germany, for a biotech conference where he’s supposed to give a presentation. While rushing back to the airport where he lost his briefcase containing his passport, a refrigerator falls off a truck and sends his taxi crashing off a bridge and into a river whereupon his head hits the rear passenger window and is knocked unconscious. The pretty taxi driver, played by Diane Kruger, selflessly breaks the rear window and manages to pull him ashore but his heart has stopped. When he wakes up from his coma, his world is turned upside-down when his wife apparently no longer recognizes him, another man has assumed his identity (oh hey, it’s Captain Gregson), and he has no way of proving he is who he thinks he is.

Aidan Quinn as the second Martin Harrison in Unknown, next to January Jones as Liz, Martin's wife.

People have pointed out how Unknown is similar to quite a few other past movies like The Bourne Identity (Wikipedia/IMDB) and Total Recall (Wikipedia/IMDB). Such comparisons are legit but don’t change the fact that Unknown is a very enjoyable movie to watch.

Of course, there are a few plot points that require a bit more suspension of disbelief than some may prefer, such as why Martin isn’t a lot more suspicious about what’s going on when he wife is seemingly so useless that he can disappear for four days and she isn’t capable of finding him, language-barrier and Thanksgiving holiday be damned. Specifically, if I saw what I believed to be my wife, in an evening dress at a party mingling with other guests (@0:17:40), after four days of being in a coma, waking up alone in a hospital to discover that she hasn’t found me, my first words to her would not be some expression of relief at having found her, but an expression of utter disbelief that she is in an evening dress mingling at a party at all instead of frantically trying to find me.

“WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T YOU LOOK FOR ME?!?”

My hands may or may not be around her neck at this point. There’s pretty much no excuse for a loving wife to not be riding the local police, searching hospitals, morgues, and gutters for a husband that suddenly disappeared four days ago. There just isn’t. This is total “what the fuck did I marry and why am I still married to this heartless wretch” territory.

What was slightly irksome was Martin’s repeated (@0:21:10 and @0:33:30) foot-stomping that the police arrest his “imposter” even after he is forced to recognize that he has no objective evidence at all to prove who he is and the other guy actually apparently has an overwhelming amount of evidence. I understand it is disorientating, that reality has seemingly suddenly and inexplicably been turned upside-down, but shouldn’t you be screaming “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!?” in that situation instead of embarrassing yourself by obstinately insisting on having someone arrested on your mere say-so? Doesn’t that evidence a complete inability to put yourself in other people’s shoes when approaching a problem?

Martin Harrison demanding that his imposter be arrested.

Martin Harrison demanding that his imposter be arrested, again.

Yeah, I get that not everyone has the same thought processes as I do, especially when one’s mind is being fucked with, but still…

There’s also a reasonably spectacular car chase in the movie. Thing is, the longer a car chase goes on for and the faster the cars drive side-by-side with one trying to get away and the other one trying to sideswipe them off the road, the more frustrated I get, wondering why the former doesn’t have the obvious realization that slamming on the brakes and suddenly changing direction (at a convenient intersection or something) would probably be a great way to lose latter.

If you have the wits to continuously drive at high-speed, in an often traffic-heavy urban environment, without crashing and horrifically mowing down random pedestrians, in your effort to escape your pursuer, then you surely have the wits to fake out your pursuer if they’re stupid enough to catch up and drive right next to you.

Yeah, I get that not everyone has the same thought processes as I do, especially when one is fleeing for their lives, but still…

That all said, Liam Neeson’s acting is great, the supporting characters were largely pleasant, and the villains/antagonists sufficiently menacing. Okay, maybe the entire role of Jurgen as the ex-Stasi was a bit extraneous to the plot. I mean, what did he really do that Martin couldn’t have done himself or made do without? Still, he was kind of adorable, right? Oh, and the slightly rotating camera effect (for example @0:38:58) whenever Martin encounters something that makes him question his understanding of reality is a nice touch, even if a bit cliche.

Granted, Unknown probably isn’t a movie that will leave a lasting impression throughout your life because of some profound idea or emotion, but it is a movie you will finish with a feeling of solid satisfaction.

4/5 stars.