Unknown (2011)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Unknown</strong> (2011)

(In theaters, February 2011)  I suspect that any overall appreciation of the film will hinge on the reaction to the shift from the Hitchcockian beginning of this B-grade thriller to its far stranger ending.  The premise is solid suspense gold (an American traveler in Berlin has an accident, suffers from some amnesia, but isn’t recognized by his wife once he finds her again) but as the film progresses it shifts while adding assassins, car chases and characters curiously versed in espionage lore.  It’s all nicely tied up, but more importantly it’s delivered with a solid regard for thriller conventions.  While Unknown may not qualify as a top-quality suspense film, it’s quick and dirty enough to serve as a respectable typical genre exercise.  In a solid performance, Liam Neeson reminds us of his turn in the seemingly-related Taken and carries much of the film on his shoulders.  The cinematography is Berlin Winter-harsh and if Jaume Collet-Serra’s directing is a bit too jumpy to be more effective, the entire film feels like a straight-ahead delivery of expected thrills.  Never mind the plot holes or the mid-film lulls: You want a thriller?  Here’s a thriller.  Curiously enough, this exploitative genre piece is adapted from a far more introspective 2003 French novel by Didier van Cauwelaert, Hors de moi, which delves into metaphysical possibilities before delivering pretty much the same twist as the film, without car chases.  The movie, for once, is far more satisfying.

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