"Born in the shadow of Bourne, and destined to stay there"
The willing suspension of disbelief. Excluding superhero films, its presence is vital to the success of almost every film released. However, it does not give filmmakers carte blanche to abuse the trust of the viewers – there is a very fine angle between believable and nonsense, and once crossed a film not only loses its credibility, but also its audience.
After that opening gambit, it’s with regret that I have to inform you that ‘Unknown’ not only crosses the line of credibility, but keeps on going until the line is merely a dot on the horizon.
Annoyingly, the concept is actually rather good. The film focuses on Dr. Martin Harris (played by Liam Neeson) whose life appears to have been hijacked by an unknown imposter. Harris then spends the next two hours trying to establish who this man is, how and why he’s managed to take over his life, along the way teaming up with a former Stasi agent (Bruno Ganz) and illegal immigrant taxi driver (Diane Kruger). Again, nothing too crazy here, and so it seems so far so good.
Where ‘Unknown’ falls down can be summed up in two words – confusion and coincidence. I don’t want to give too much away, but it seems to me ‘Unknown’ isn’t quite sure what it wants to be. On one side it wants to be an ‘identity thriller’ (if such a genre even exists), on the other side to follow in the footsteps of the Bourne trilogy, but manages only to be a poor, confused mix of the two.
It’s in the final half an hour where ‘Unknown’ really falls down, and the willing suspension of disbelief I mentioned earlier goes out of the window. We all understand that certain allowances have to be made during the filmmaking process, but the level of coincidence that seeps into the last act is so absurd as to undo all of the good work from the first 90 minutes. It’s a shame too - Neeson was perfectly cast in this film, it’s just a shame that the story couldn’t match his talents.