Review: Plot Holes in 'Unknown' Are Fun to Watch Neeson Punch In

February 18, 2011

Unknown Review

Unknown, the new film directed by Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra, is 75% a decent thriller, a mystery that establishes itself, builds itself, and reveals itself with superlative pacing. There are some nice action pieces thrown in, as well, and Liam Neeson is no stranger to coming off intimidating when he needs to be. However, it's not a film that really asks the audience think too hard about what it presents. To do so is to discover the plot holes, contrivances, and all around banality that comes from zero attempt at originality. It's exciting, but the explosions roar through those holes like a bullet train entering a tunnel.

The film begins with Neeson's Dr. Martin Harris and his wife Elizabeth (January Jones) landing in Berlin for a conference. Soon after landing, Martin is in a severe car accident that leaves him in a coma. When he awakens along with a slight case of amnesia, he discovers someone else (said someone played by Aidan Quinn) has taken his place, his wife acts as if she has no idea who she is, and Martin is left to sort out if there is a much larger conspiracy at work or if he truly is going crazy.

Never mind the fact the screenplay by Oliver Butcher & Stephen Cornwell probably would have worked better had we not had the prologue of the couple landing. Had Unknown opened with Martin awaking in the hospital, it would have created doubt in the mind of the audience, the idea that maybe the protagonist here really is crazy. That's not the way they went, though, and it's an almost inconsequential bump in a film already build on so much mystery.

That mystery is where the film gains most of its complimentary energy. In a day and age where spy thrillers are as common as graffiti on the walls of Berlin, it doesn't take much sorting out to know where the story is headed. With the aid of the driver of the cab in which his accident took place, played by Diane Kruger, and a former member of the East German State Security, played by Bruno Ganz, Martin pieces the clues of what is going on with a nice, comfortable level of confidence. Collet-Serra does a commendable job in keeping the film from ever getting bogged down in long-winded information dumps or silly moments of dim-witted actions on the parts of the villains. Before long, Martin finds himself being chased by mysterious and deadly men, and everyone appears to be acting in real-world situations. That's for the first 2/3 of the film.

There is a turning point in Unknown. It comes after many puzzle pieces are put into place, after Neeson hearkens back to his Taken days in throwing punches and elbows the bad guys' way, and after a relatively exciting car chase that stays away from utilizing goofy looking CG. The moment comes once Frank Langella as one of Neeson's colleagues enters the film. Suddenly Unknown, a film that was holding a solid grasp on its audience with the mystery it was building, becomes the very worst a Jason Bourne or even James Bond knockoff can offer.

Remember what was said earlier about stupid information dumps? That goes right out the window once the villains of the film are revealed, once the mystery and questions surrounding "Dr. Martin Harris" and the earlier events are answered. The goofy CGI comes into play. Bad guys begin monologuing to our hero for no other reason than to relay information to we the audience. Unknown devolves into eye-rolling moments of exposition and plot-hole laden twists and turns.

Of course, the elbows and explosions continue to rise up to the surface. The film almost appears to attempting distraction on its audience, throwing enough action their way to keep them from really sitting back and thinking about the events that are taking place. It's decent action, don't get me wrong. Collet-Serra has a nice way of framing such action, and the resulting set piece in the final moments of the film provides a very dynamically placed punch to the audience before sending them on their way. There's more ridiculous CGI strewn throughout the last third of Unknown. It's not easy to get around, but the energy and intensity thrown in around it almost makes up for it.

All the while Neeson gives Unknown a sense of sophistication. He plays Martin Harris delicately in the early moments. You believe this man is lost in this world and truly doesn't understand what is happening to him. However, once things heat up, so does Neeson's performance, and he once again puts a solid stamp on an action-oriented character. The connection between he and Kruger is evident, as well, much more so than between Neeson and Jones who plays Liz. The less said about her inflexible performance the better.

Despite where it goes, regardless of how hard the film derails logically at times, Unknown is a decent enough thriller, a solid mystery that never lets up when the action kicks in either. It really becomes a contradiction of a film in that it raises so many questions, offers its audience the opportunity to really think about what is taking place then flashes the shiny objects of quick action and flamboyant stunts to keep the audience from thinking too hard about it. The plot holes are definitely evident in Unknown, but their done so in such a way that it's undeniably entertaining watching them get punched in.

Jeremy's Rating: 6.5 out of 10

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looking forward to this one Love Neeson

Loser on Feb 18, 2011


yea - he's a great actor. i've never seen a film he was in that i didn't like.

Anonymous on Feb 18, 2011


I read maybe one paragraph of your "review" if that's what you want to call it. Tell us if we'll like the movie. Write about how it made you feel. Stop with the 5th grade book report giving away every plot detail, and give us a review of the freaking movie.

Ion677 on Feb 18, 2011


I'll be seeing it for sure.

Thanos on Feb 19, 2011


This movie is terrible. I am seriously offended for having to pay money to watch this piece of crap. This movie is B-movie material. It's slow, boring, and simply stupid. It is not a Jason Bourne meets James Bond film, nor is it a hybrid of Taken. It's so bad that I really have no idea what to compare it. I seriously do not understand how anyone could rate such a movie as a 6.5/10. It's more like a 2. What action was there to distract me from such a boring story? Did we really watch the same film? This is such a terrible movie that's it's not even worth a torrent. *Slight spoilers, but not really cause you're not gonna watch it. It's certainly not an exciting movie. What little fighting there is is composed more of struggles than anything else. The chase/car scenes are just as unoriginal as the soundtrack. Diane Kruger actually kills more villains than Liam Neeson, and he doesn't even use a gun in the film.

Get To Da Choppaaaa! on Feb 19, 2011


dude. stupid people will never get movies like this. stupid people want linnear type stories where the plot is too narrow and straightforward. Dragon kidnaps the princess, knight in shining armor appears, knight slays dragon and they live happily ever after. sad to say but this is not one of those movies for your type man. right off the trailier it is obvious this is classed as a 'MYSTERY' so the way you describe it like whining how liam did not make much action and so? dude wtf? evryone who'se not stupid knows that this is not that movie like cowboys, cop shootups and rambo type movies which stupid morons like you expected. your comment is so fucking rediculous so sorry I just have to say something coz reading your post just made me laugh at how stupid people think. cheers! 😉

LiamNeesonIsOK on Feb 20, 2011


Stupid?! LOL. First thing, I love Liam. He'a great actor. It's not his fault that the movie fails, but more the writer's and director's. Secondly, many critics compared this movie to a cross between Jason Bourne and James Bond. Look it up in rottentomatoes and you'll see all the comparisons. When major critics do so, expectations rise to great combat, chase scenes, and the like which the movie certainly didn't have. Thirdly, the movie is not a mystery because everyone in the audience knows he's supposed to be some type of badass agent or assassin who loses his memory. There were absolutely no mysterious elements in the film because all the players were forthright with their intentions. It wasn't a typical "whodunit" type of movie as your profess. And before you even think you have authority to make comments, go watch the fucking movie first...STUPID, HAHAHAHA...!

Get To Da Choppaaaa! on Feb 20, 2011


*spoiler, but trust me you want to read this. SO MANY HOLES ITS RETARDED. once he finds out hes an assassin he doesnt change his course of action or try to complete his given mission, its like his amnesia gives him a "change of heart" which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Also, he ends up in a relationship with the taxi driver who admitted previously that assassins like him were responsible for the death of her entire family.... why the fuck would she then be accepting of Liam if he was the same caliber of people who killed her family. those are just two gapping holes, there were tons more. im just too angry to write anymore about this shit fuck movie. ive already donated way to much energy.

Patricknagle on Feb 26, 2011


he doesn't want to complete his mission because his fucking bosses tried to kill him dumbass, why would he bother finishing a mission that was already being finished by some asshole that replaced him?

Fuck on Jul 7, 2011


True, he didn't need to finish the mission but why did he feel obligated to prevent it from being successful? Unless, as the previous poster said, his amnesia gave him a change of heart, it would make more sense to leave immediately and start a new life. If he really wanted revenge (although the main boss and accomplices most to blame are already dead) it would have been simpler and easier to strike at his former team-mates at another time. Revealing to security that he had previously planted a bomb  places him in a ridiculous amount of danger. It's not like the police wouldn't try to lock him up for his previous actions even if he had tried to correct them.

Amanda B on Aug 11, 2011

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