By Dr. Craig D. Reid
From the classic 1998 film Frantic starring Harrison Ford as Doctor Richard Walker: In a hotel room in Paris, a doctor comes out of a cold shower and finds that his wife has disappeared. He soon finds himself caught up in a world of intrigue, espionage, gangsters, drugs and murder as a young women Michelle helps him survive assassination attempts, car chases, the cities underground night clubs, roof top chases and narrow escapes to ultimately find his wife and balance all things out.
From the 2011 excellent suspense thriller Unknown starring Liam Neeson as Doctor Martin Harris: In a car in Germany, a doctor comes out of the cold water after surviving a car accident and finds that his wife has disappeared (in that she doesn’t recognize him). He soon finds himself caught up in a world of intrigue, espionage, killers, corn plants and murder as a young woman Gina helps him survive assassination attempts, car chases, the cities underground night clubs, roof top chases and narrow escapes to ultimately find his wife and balance all things out.
As you’re watching Unknown, the parallels between the two films hits you harder than Mike Tyson biting off your ear in a boxing ring, it’s painfully obvious. Due to the circumstances of the films, Ford’s Dr. Walker is losing his mind trying to figure what the hell is going on, while Neeson’s Dr. Harris has lost his mind trying to figure why the hell this is happening to him.
But unlike the predictable outcome that Tyson’s ear-gnashing rage would lead to the demise of him as a boxer and honorable athlete or the obvious conclusion that Walker would find his wife, Dr. Harris’ end game is as predictable as a chess match between two high ranking masters who have only made three moves each.
There’s even a little bit of Sixth Sense in there, not in the ghostly sense but in a way that screenwriters Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell seems to be tossing things on the screen that make little sense as you’re watching the film, some even down right illogical. But at the end of the film, everything comes together as you go through all those little clues the writer’s gave you throughout the movie where you sit back and say to yourself, “Ah, that explains why this and that.”
So what’s really going on in this film?
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and based on the novel by Didier van Cauwelaert, Unknown has pseudo-amnesiac Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) awaken after a car accident in Berlin to discover that his wife (January Jones) suddenly doesn’t recognize him and another man (Aidan Quinn) has assumed his identity. Ignored by disbelieving authorities and hunted by assassins, he finds himself alone, tired, and on the run. On his own in a strange country, Martin seeks aid from an unlikely and reluctant source (Diane Kruger) as he plunges headlong into a deadly mystery that will force him to question his sanity, his identity, and just how far he’s willing to go to uncover the truth.
Of course Harris can’t handle the truth because he doesn’t know Jack, yet as he Cruises through Berlin courting danger, he finally realizes that there truly are only a few good men in his life as the Moore he learns, he sees that the innocent are guilty and Harris’ bad case of identity theft is not what it seems.
In his last thriller Taken, Neeson’s character is able to thrash out at his enemies with a barrage of fighting skills that are partially reminiscent to Matt Damon’s Bourne character in the Bourne movies. Although not as much, Neeson does seem to have a few moments of martial arty/close quarter combat skirmishes in Unknown. However, the fight choreographer and second unit director of Unknown truly know nothing about how to shoot a fight scene, but fortunately for the film that weakness does not distract from the story or the intriguingly enigmatic ending of the movie.