Unknown (2011)

Rated PG-13. Our Ratings: V-5;L -1; S/N –1. Running time: 1 hour 53 min.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we
will go to such and such a town and spend a year
there, doing business and making money.” 14 Yet
you do not even know what tomorrow will bring.
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears
for a little while and then vanishes.
James 4:13

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in their hearts; there is no fear of God before their eyes.
Psalm 36:1

Martin Harris seeks out Gina to help prove his identity.

2011Warner brothers

Liam Neeson, so adept at meaty dramatic roles like Oskar Schindler, now seems to have decided late in his career to choose action thrillers as a career move. In Taken he was the loving father stricken by the abduction of his daughter, turned into a killing machine in order to rescue her. Now he is Dr. Martin Harris, a professor of biology who is to deliver a paper at a Biotech conference in Berlin with his beautiful wife Liz (January Jones). They seem in love when we first see them on the plane. Then comes an accident that changes the whole course of the movie and our perceptions. Indeed, it is but the first of a pair of accidents/coincidents, so important to this genre.

At the airport, as they get into a taxi, we see that the driver, loading their bags into the trunk, forgets the briefcase on the luggage rack. When they arrive at the posh hotel, Liz goes on in to register. Discovering his brief case is missing, Martin hales another taxi to return to the airport. He tries to call his wife on his cell phone, but cannot get through. The taxi, driven by a young woman named Gina (Diane Kruger), is slowed by a traffic jam, so the impatient Martin tells her to take a faster route. (From experience we know this is always a bad move!) She xomplies, and then, as they are crossing a bridge, another accident occurs. A crate falls off a truck. Gina tries to avoid it, but it smashes into their car anyway The taxi plunges through the guard rail and into the frigid river. The driver is able to smash her window and escape, but the unconscious Martin is still strapped in the back seat. She dives under the water to rescue him. The police and emergency squad are quick to arrive, and soon the medics are trying to revive the victim. Gina quietly walks away.

Four days later Martin wakes up from a coma, his memory partially gone. He has no papers. While watching a TV report about the biotech conference, he regains enough of his memory to recall his name and why he came to Berlin, but he has no papers to prove his identity. Against the wishes of his doctor, he leaves the hospital and heads for the hotel. The man in charge of security is understandably hesitant to believe a man who has no papers to back up his strange story. Martin, spotting his wife at the reception, persuades the security officer to accompany him to her side. She says she does not know him. He insists he is Martin, her husband, but another man comes up claiming to be Martin. He has papers to prove it, so which do you think the security agent is going to believe?

Martin starts out in a franctic search to discover what is happening to him. At the taxi agency the upset manager tells him that the woman no longer works for him. Another driver, after some persuasion, tells Martin that Gina also works as a waitress at a diner, but when he approaches her, she does not want to discuss the incident because she is an illegal immigrant from Bosnia, and thus fears deportation if she becomes involved and the police discover her identity.

Martin returns to the hospital to talk with the doctor. The sympathetic nurse gives him the name of a man who has the skills to help Martin untavel the mystery. Martin is sent to another department for a scan, and while there a man whom earlier he had spotted shadowing him, shows up, kills the nurse, and tries to do away with Martin by injecting a poison into his system. However, while the killer is dragging the body of the nurse into a closet, Martin manages to escape from the guerney, and rushes off, the killer chasing him through the hospital corridors and stairwells.

The fugitive steals some clothes and by some miracle, though he was clothed only in a gown in the hospital, still has the slip of paper with information about the detective. The man is Ernst Jurgen (Bruno Ganz), a former Stasi officer. He believes Martin’s story, and sets out to help him, his acts leading to a series of events that will endanger Gina and Martin, and his own life as well.

We can expect lots more twists and turns in the plot and a fiery climax, and so there are. During trhe film the excitement and suspense keep us from thinking about the plot holes and improbabilities. An example of the latter that gives rise to a question: Have you ever tried backing up your car at high speed while avoiding crashing into other cars and pedestrians, especially on a narrow sidewalk? Oh well, just buckle up and go along for the ride, if you want to escape for a while from the real world. The Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra must have enjoyed his opportunity to direct such a talented cast in this cream puff of a movie.