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Unknown - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B-
Acting: B
Writing: C-
Cinematography: B-
Editing: B

To say Unknown is far-fetched is like saying a trip to Mars would be a bit of a jaunt. The more the story unfolds, the more preposterous it gets -- until suspension of disbelief becomes far too much of an effort and you're left talking to the screen: "Oh, whatever!"

The story centers around one Dr. Martin Harris, who has woken up from a four-days-long coma to find that his identity has been stolen and not even his wife recognizes him. As he puts together what's going on piece by piece, he discovers there's an assassination plot afoot, and it's connected to a man with a patent for a new strain of corn that will revolutionize agriculture in a post-oil world -- and which he's going to give to the world for free. Sure, this is fiction and all, but a line has to be drawn somewhere. In what universe would that ever happen?

I knew this movie would be derivative before I went in, but I figured it was likely still to be entertaining. Just about everything is in some way a derivation of another, after all; most of the time it's not difficult just to go with it. But Unknown is derivative to the nth degree; it's practically oppressive. Really, they might as well have called this In the Line of the Harris Identity.

This is a movie for non-thinkers -- particularly ones who ignorantly fancy themselves sophisticated mystery solvers. They can predict nearly everything coming ahead without realizing that it's because everything they're seeing has been done in a hundred other movies already. Every scene that passes is presented as though the plot is thickening, but when each scene is regarded individually, there are no subtle details because the details are grossly oversimplified. Every line uttered by the characters is completely devoid of nuance.

I actually have nothing against popcorn action movies -- if they're done well. Unknown simply isn't. A couple of things happen in the story that subvert what usually occurs in other, nearly identical movies, but these exceptions do nothing whatsoever to counterbalance the bigger picture, which, in this case, is that Unknown kind of sucks.

The one genuinely redeeming value is Liam Neeson as Dr. Martin Harris. For reasons that are perhaps the greatest mystery in this poor excuse for a mystery movie, Neeson fully commits to the role. In fact, he's quite possibly the only actor here who doesn't seem to be phoning it in -- the others including January Jones as Harris's wife; Aidan Quinn as the man now posing as Harris; and Frank Langella as Harris's colleague. In Langella's case, you can practically see him thinking, Why am I in this movie? Frost/Nixon, this is not.

Thanks to Neeson, a good half or more of the movie actually shows a bit of promise, and commands attention. The man himself is so compelling to watch that you're willing to overlook silly details like his leaving his passport in a briefcase that gets lost at the airport -- the event on which the entire plot hinges. As we learn more about who Harris really is, though, such a ridiculous mistake on his part makes less and less sense. Thus, the more Dr. Martin Harris unravels the mystery of his circumstances, the more Unknown flies off the rails -- until in the end, the credits roll and so do your eyes.

Why Liam Neeson would be drawn to this script is 'Unknown'.

Overall: C+
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