Unknown: Blu-ray and DVD

Monday, 18 July 2011 00:00

It’s the classic stuff of nightmares.  Suddenly, halfway through a dream, you find that no-one believes you are who you say you are.  People you thought knew you deny ever seeing you before in their lives, and then to cap it all, someone else claims to be you, and knows everything that you do – things they should not have knowledge of, leaving you dumbfounded and all alone, miles from home.

And so it is that this scenario becomes the basis of “Unknown”, the latest vehicle for the multi-talented Liam Neeson, who recently did the impossible by replacing George Peppard in the bid screen version of “The A-Team”. Here it’s a real change of pace, as he pulls off playing a renowned scientist who finds himself in a car accident, after which, minus passport and anything else which would prove he is who he says he is, he struggles to find allies in his quest for truth.

Unknown - Out Now on Blu-ray and DVDNeeson’s character, Martin Harris, find that Berlin is not the place to have the ‘Busman’s Holiday’ he was hoping for, attending a conference as one of its keynote speakers. His frustrations become our frustrations, and Mad Men fans will recognise actress January Jones (Betty, wide of Don Draper), again playing the wayward wife, this time named Elizabeth Harris. It’s fair to say that these two spouses are effectively the same character, and this performance lacks the steel required for what is a pivotal character in the action.

Elizabeth doesn’t come to visit Martin in hospital following the crash, which panics Martin as he worries for her being all alone in Berlin. This over-rides what should have been his major cause for concern, which is why she didn’t go looking for him in the first instance. When he finally manages to locate and get back to the conference hotel, no-one knows who he is.

Since he had never checked in previously, as he had hot-tailed it when he realised he had left some luggage at the airport, his story cannot be corroborated.  Even worse, Elizabeth doesn’t recognise him, and introduces Martin to someone else who says he is her wife!

Aidan Quinn (who had his breakthrough as Alfred in “Legends of the Fall”) is the other Martin – but is he the real one or a fake? Certainly, the audience are in no doubt that if they were to choose out of the two, Mr Neeson’s variant would get the vote for just being the nicer type of guy!

The authorities don’t want to know, and soon by making a fuss Martin finds himself hunted by mysterious assassins, and finds himself alone and isolated. A Doctor suggests he should track down the taxi driver who was involved in the accident with him, and with a little perseverance he locates Gina (Diane Kruger - Bridget von Hammersmark in “Inglorious Basterds”).

In desperation he turns to private detective Ernst Jürgen (Bruno Ganz, who played Hitler in “Downfall”). Ernst is ‘old school’, ex-security services, and able to call in some very valuable favours. Although Martin is still questioning his sanity, Ernst believes his story and is prepared to take matters further. Needless to say this is a chance for Bruno Ganz to absolutely steal the film, metaphorically chewing up the carpet, milking everything from a furtive glance here and there, and peaches of dialogue on every one of his script’s pages. But don’t take my word for it – Elizabeth Kruger makes the same observation in her interview which is one of the extras on this release.

Watch out too for Frank Langella (Nixon in “Frost/Nixon”), who as a long-time colleague of the real Martin is able to blow the whole mystery wide open.

The film was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (“Orphan”), from a screenplay by Oliver Butcher and Steve Cornwell, all based on the novel “Out of My Head” by Didier van Cauwelaert.  It was shot entirely in Germany, using Studio Babelsberg, the oldest large-scale studio complex in the world.

Extras on this release feature the following:

  • Unknown: The Story
  • Behind the Scenes
  • Liam Neeson: Known Action Hero
  • Interviews with Liam Neeson, January Jones, Diane Kruger, Jaume Collet-Serra and Joel Silver
  • Trailer

With such a mystery thriller as this, it succeeds or fails by the twist in its tale.  Even for hardened hacks like my wife and I, we didn’t see the denouement coming. The early frustration at the initial pacing of the movie was long forgotten by the time the credits rolled.

So, do what you can to avoid the spoilers, don’t watch the trailer on this release before watching the film, or indeed any of the other extras either for that matter!

“Unknown” is out now on Double Play (Blu-ray & DVD) and DVD, with a running time of 112 mins approx, and a ‘15’ certificate. It has an unconfirmed RRP of £24.99 (Double Play – Blu-ray & DVD) and £19.99 (DVD), but you can get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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