Following in the footsteps on “Taken,” Liam Neeson stars in this action-thriller as Dr. Martin Harris, a research scientist, first seen with his beautiful wife Elizabeth (January Jones) arriving in snowy Berlin, prepared to address a global conference on biotechnology. In the confusion of leaving the airport, the briefcase containing his passport and other credentials is left on the luggage cart. Just as he reaches his hotel, he realizes his loss and immediately tries to retrieve it but his taxi is involved in an accident and he’s rescued from the river by the taxi driver Gina (Diane Kruger), a spunky Bosnian
immigrant. Having been in a coma for four days, Martin suffers bouts of amnesia, but he soon comes to realize he’s in a strange city and another man (Aiden Quinn) has assumed his identity, taking his place at his wife’s side. Desperate to unravel the mystery of what happened and aware that he’s being followed by unknown assassins, he contacts Ernst Jurgen (Bruno Ganz), a cynical, old East German secret police officer to help him prove he is who he says he is – or isn’t. Plus, there’s Martin’s bewildered colleague, Professor Bressler (Sebastian Koch), and menacing associate, Rodney Cole (Frank Langella).
At 58, Liam Neeson remains a formidable heroic figure and Diane Kruger (“Inglourious Basterds”) is always compelling to watch. But January Jones’ (Betty Draper in TV’s “Mad Men”) icy demeanor never changes, even when she’s briefly glimpsed in flashback in steamy shower sequences. ,p .
Adapted by Olivier Butcher and Stephen Cornwell from a 2003 French novel by Didier Van Cauwelaert, the screenwriters also owe a debt of gratitude to “Mirage” (1965), starring Gregory Peck, just as Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (“Orphan”) was obviously influenced by the expertise of Alfred Hitchcock – while Flavio Labiano’s photography of the car chases and a rooftop escape is dazzling. Just don’t venture into the intrinsic implausibility and wonder why there is no police presence during the obvious mayhem.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Unknown” is a secretive, suspenseful 7, scoring as a late-winter diversion.