“Unknown” Review – The movie that’s about as ambiguous as its title.

Ivan Favelevic, Editor in Chief

“Unknown” feels like a familiar beast. An ambiguous trailer shows you just enough of the plot to get you interested and scratching your head. You know what to expect when you buy the ticket, a high-octane thriller with suspicious characters and a head turning conspiracy plot, and frankly, that is all it is. Although it may have some good ideas brewing, “Unknown” comes of as a generic thriller that is trying desperately to make a name for itself.

The story places Dr. Martin Harris and his wife (played by Liam Neeson and January Jones) in Berlin during a biochemical summit, which Dr. Harris is invited to attend. As they settle into the hotel, Harris notices that he forgot his briefcase at the airport and quickly catches a cab to get it back. The cab crashes and he is knocked out into a deep coma. When he wakes up, he gathers what is left of his memory and goes to find his wife, but stands in shock, as she does not recognize him. In his place is a man claming to be Martin Harris and sporting the identification to boot. Since our main character conveniently lost his identification the remainder of the movie is spent trying to figure out who is this man in his place. The standard conspiracy theory ensues and by the end enough plot twists have happened to confuse those who were not paying close attention. Nonetheless, this does not make the film any more appealing, seeing how every one of the plot twists were used in previous films to much greater effect.

While the story may seem predictable at times, it does keep you attached to the whole film until the end. Unfortunately, there are so many poor directorial choices made along the way that greatly hurt the enjoyment of this film. Director Jaume Collet-Serra is known for his cheap thrills horror films such as “House of Wax” and “Orphan” and his pedigree can be seen throughout “Unknown.” The classic horror clichés are in full force with cheap scares and overused tension builders. Cars screech way too loud as if used to point your attention to the rather boring chase scenes. What is even more unfortunate is that the movie fails to take itself seriously at times. Awkward moments of comic relief pepper an otherwise serious plot and leave what is left feeling silly and contrived. The film also suffers from the same problems movies like this always seem to find. The meek botanist manages to survive a high-speed chase scene and later proceeds to beat up trained goons who only happen to become deadly when the plot requires it. While the ending explains some of the plot holes it becomes such a deus ex machina that it can be hard to swallow. This goes without mentioning the horrible acting from some of the cast. Frank Langela was hamming it up for some easy money during his brief cameo and January Jones was not even trying to act. She was simply saying the lines with the most monotone and unenthused tone possible. Couple this with Liam Neeson’s slight overacting and you have yourself the equivalent of a summer camp rendition of “The Bourne Identity.”

It can be difficult to review a movie like “Unknown.” As a critic, I watch hundreds of movies a year, something that may distance me from the average moviegoer. Overused plot twists and clichés can irk me quickly considering how many movies I see that use the same techniques. “Unknown” is not a bad movie per se, it just travels a very worn path. If it has been a long time since you see a movie like this then feel free to give “Unknown” a chance, it will entertain you. However, if you try to get the most for your money or are a big fan of the genre then move along, this movie will soon become as forgettable as the name suggests.