Netflix UK film review: Unknown
James R | On 20, Dec 2014
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Frank Langella, Bruno Ganz
Watch Unknown online in the UK: Netflix UK / Amazon Prime / TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Amazon Instant Video
There’s nothing quite like Liam Neeson killing people. From Taken to The A-Team, Liam’s just really good at bumping people off. So it’s great to see that, even when he suffers an identity crisis, he still remembers how to brutally pummel a man to death.
At first, the actor looks like he’s in different territory to his now legendary Euro-trashing revenge flick: Dr Martin Harris (Neeson) is in Berlin for a conference with his wife, Elizabeth (Jones), and is a mild-mannered, well-dressed boffin. But after he bumps his head mid-car crash and someone else turns up claiming to be him, he’s soon back in the long dark coat again and walking around looking for people to kill. Exactly the way things should be.
The ensuing storyline toys with everything from a full-blown mental breakdown to shady political organisations. Barmy is the order of the day here, rather than anything involving a brain (unless it’s a brain that Liam Neeson has just killed).
The twists that Unknown throws up are mostly surprising in terms how little they make sense, even with Diane Kruger’s taxi driver on hand for emotional and intellectual support. At one point he finds a diary with a secret code in it, and proudly deciphers the numbers into words. “But what do the words mean?” Kruger asks. “I don’t know.” It’s hardly Alfred Hitchcock.
But director Jaume Collet-Serra keeps the pace flowing neatly with some decent bursts of action (or at least some moderately entertaining conversations), and the location of Berlin looks almost as good as January Jones’ expressionless spouse. Most importantly, the strong leading couple keep things straight-faced enough for it all to stay tense – unlike The Tourist, the silliness is enjoyable rather than boring. Even when Diane Kruger randomly starts shouting about her backstory involving evil men and slaughtered children. Or something.
As for the nonsensical plot, all you need to know is that it’s a great excuse to bring together Downfall’s Bruno Ganz as an ex-Stasi agent and Frank Langella – who, as always, wears a hat. And any conspiracy thriller that involves Richard Nixon and Hitler must be worth its weight in trash.
Unknown is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription. It is also available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.