In 2008’s grim but effective surprise hit Taken, Liam Neeson reversed a couple of decades worth of roles that had him pigeonholed as the dependable Irish dude who could hold a picture (Kinsey, Rob Roy), or the guy you threw in to add a layer of respectability (those Star Wars films, Love Actually). Taken introduced Liam Neeson as the OAP Jason Bourne – the 55-year-old action hero knocking off Albanian sex slave traders with dour steely eyed intent. He’s obviously enjoying his mid career jaunt through fists and guns territory, and as a professional boxer in earlier years Neeson has the body and stamina to make it work.
In Unknown he plays plant fiddler Dr Martin Harris, in Berlin giving a keynote presentation at a botanist conference with his wife in tow (Mad Men’s January Jones solidifying her ability to stand in position and dolefully recite lines). After realising his briefcase has been left at the airport he scurries back only to wind up half-dead in a river after his taxi careens off a bridge. Four days in a coma leaves Harris struggling to piece together the fragments in his shattered mind. He knows he’s married but that’s about it – no passport, no documents and a killer headache. Returning to his hotel he confronts his wife only to be snubbed – she has no idea who this impostor is. Indeed she already has another Dr Martin Harris under her arm proving once and for all, trophy wives shouldn’t be trusted alone in cosmopolitan German cities.
The third act turns everything upside down and a shape-shifting spy action thriller emerges; one that plays a few cute tricks and requests some pretty large suspensions of belief. Nevertheless Unknown is an efficient action thriller in a genre bloated with films lacking verve, wit or tension.