The advertising for Unknown seems to want you to think it’s actually Taken 2. And why not? It’s Liam Neeson as a lone man against European forces conspiring to take something from him. Considering the huge success of Taken, you can’t really fault the marketing team.
Luckily, Unknown can stand on its own. Maybe because of its similarities to Taken, though, this movie doesn’t feel quite as fresh. This isn’t to say it’s a copy because the plot is really not similar at all. As you know from the trailers, Neeson plays a man who wakes up from a coma to find someone else has taken over his identity and nobody believes him. It’s obviously a “big twist” kind of movie, that I won’t give away here.
The best twists are ones you don’t see coming, right? So a successful mystery wouldn’t be obvious–but at the same time, if it’s so crazy as to be implausible, it can sometimes lose the audience. I thought this walked the right balance–I couldn’t predict where it was going, but the reveal felt appropriate. I bought into it. One thing I liked is that the twist isn’t the end of the movie. Once the characters and audience are fully informed, there’s still a decent chunk of movie where we can enjoy the new knowledge and watch the characters use it to their advantage.
I did find a few moments where I wondered why the characters didn’t just do X in order to prove their identity. In this age of social media, there’s innumerable verifiers of your identity online, and it wasn’t addressed here. But then again, maybe that’s for younger people–I know my parents don’t have any online presence, and Neeson is closer to their age than mine. Plus, there’s sort of a character-based reason for ignoring this aspect, so I let it slide.
Neeson is reliable as always, and the supporting cast is uniformly good. With the slight exception of January Jones–I thought she was the weak link, which doesn’t bode well for this summer’s X-Men movie, where she’ll play Emma Frost.
The action really picks up towards the second half, where it feels a lot like the Bourne movies. Close quarters combat, intense car chases, and a “realistic” approach combine to give the same kind of vibe.
I don’t mean to keep comparing Unknown to other movies. It really doesn’t feel like you’re watching a rehash of something else. It starts a bit slow, but gets more and more interesting the further in you get. A solid effort all around, even if it doesn’t bring anything very new to the table.
Unknown, starring Liam Neeson, is in theaters now