Unknown Identity (Unknown) – Movie Review

 

Comparisons with this film and Hitchcock make me completely aggressive: I feel it is a simplification of the delicate full-suspense plotted stories of the “Master” of which Unknown Identity has absolutely nothing. Any Hitchcock fan who has heard of this comparison can´t really take this film seriously and let alone feel any hitchcockian glimpse in it.

Jaume-Collet Serra (The houe of wax) who is more known for straight horror flicks, comes here into unknown territory trying to weave a clever suspenseful story that doesn´t live up to its effort. The superficiality of the plot overrides any intention of diving deep in creating a meaningful narration and refreshing the genre.

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) arrives with his wife (January Jones) in Berlin for a biotechnology conference. Dr. Harris gets into a traffic accident and awakens from a coma four days later, only to find out that his identity has been completely taken by somebody else (Aidan Quinn) and even his wife won´t recognize him. Only the illegal inmigrant taxi driver (Diane Kruger) will try to help him figure out why someone is trying to steal his life.

The presentation of the premise, the setting in Berlin and the clean production design and cinematography make the film interesting enough to lure you in theaters and get you past the first half hour. But once the truth starts to reveal itself, or worse yet, once the plot can´t hold itself anymore, the film starts to fall apart. The ridiculousness of the motivation as an excuse for a plot, the terrible acting and the underused setting, makes the film a pretentious effort in trying to catch audiences by fooling them with a failed originality.

Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger couldn´t be flatter and uninspired. I guess it is part the script´s failing in developing interesting characters and part lack of direction. Specially Diane Kruger seems completely out of her element, a German trying to play a Bosnian inmigrant in Berlin, for which she tries to fake a terrible artificial accent but sometimes forgetting it when she has to speak German, making her performance a caricature that lacks any kind of credibility. Liam Neeson seems in automatic mode, simply “playing” out the script rather than reacting to the ridiculous situations and developing a character.

The film has been set in Berlin, but this only seems to be an arbitrary decision to take advantage of the attractive funding schemes Germany has to offer. The film could have been played in Tokyo, L.A., or Mexico City and the plot would have not changed a bit. The failure to make Berlin part of the story, to make it a character like many say is simply a shame due to the richness of a city full of History. The effort in bringing in an ex-Stasi officer (Bruno Ganz) as a private detective to figure out things is as superficial as the whole film itself and doesn´t justify picking Berlin as a setting. Only Berliners will amuse themselves by recognizing landmarks getting blown up and neighboring corners, but the city has absolutely nothing to do with the underlying theme.

All in all this film can be seen as a failed addition to an exciting genre with interesting visuals, a decent half hour of entertainment and terrible acting, that would appeal mainly to berliners for all the wrong reasons.

Unknown Identity (Unknown) – Germany, UK, France, 2011 – Action, Drama, Mystery – Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra – Starring Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones – 113 min.

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About xagudo

Xavier Agudo is a Berlin-based Venezuelan filmmaker.