A wise philosopher once said the following: nothing is real, and reality is nothing. Liam Neeson’s new film, “Unknown,” takes that idea to new heights as the actor continues his late-career resurgence as the unlikeliest of action heroes – who would have ever thought that Oskar Schindler himself would be so good at kicking ass?
Just as in “Taken,” 2008’s campy ode to determined fathers, Neeson’s character has a very particular set of skills, skills he has acquired over a very long career, this time as a botanist instead of a covert operative for the CIA. In this film, however, which more or less serves as an unofficial sequel to “Taken,” it’s not his daughter who has gone missing, but rather his very identity itself.
“Unknown” may not be of the same caliber as Neeson’s best-known work – that would be “Schindler’s List,” for the non-film enthusiasts among us – but it is certainly stronger than “Taken.” The dialogue has not gotten any better, but the movie overall is superior, if only for the casting.
Fans of foreign films may recognize German actors Sebastian Koch (of “Black Book” and “The Lives of Others”) and Bruno Ganz (of “Downfall” infamy) as a scientist and former secret policeman, respectively, and Frank Langella fills the role of the creepy provider of plot exposition quite nicely, a tradition started with “The Box” and to be continued in March’s “The Adjustment Bureau.”
It’s sad that the women of “Unknown,” unfortunately, fare a bit worse. January Jones is a stunning actress with zero range on exhibit in the film, and one may question why German actress Diane Kruger plays a Bosnian émigré in Germany with a German accent, but most viewers are not coming for either actress. Director Jaume Collet-Serra knows most of us are there for one reason and one reason only: to see Liam Neeson throw people through walls.
It’s a role that Neeson fulfills with obvious relish. It’s not terribly surprising that Neeson has proven to be such a reliable action star in recent years. While film executives debate what to do with the Jason Bourne series, it’s nice to see a slightly older version of the amnesiac spy kick ass and take names in an exotic locale.
Here’s to “Unknown 2: He Still Doesn’t Know.”
Rating: 3/4 stars
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra
MPAA Rating: R