New on DVD/Blu-ray: Unknown (2011)

Liam Neeson has done action roles before (“Batman Begins”, “Rob Roy”), but I think most people didn’t realize just how physical he could actually be in a movie until “Taken”, well, took the world by storm. “Unknown” looks and feels a lot like “Taken” (and certainly the film’s ads have tried to make the connection), though it has a much different tone. The film is, for much of its running time, a mystery first, with Neeson’s average, Everyman character at the very center of a bizarre series of events. Uncover all of it for yourself when “Unknown” arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, for Download and On Demand June 21, 2011 from Warner Home Video.

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) awakens after a car accident in Berlin to discover that his wife (January Jones) suddenly doesn’t recognize him and another man (Aidan Quinn) has assumed his identity. Ignored by disbelieving authorities and hunted by assassins, he finds himself alone, tired, and on the run. On his own in a strange country, Martin seeks aid from an unlikely and reluctant source (Diane Kruger) as he plunges headlong into a deadly mystery that will force him to question his sanity, his identity, and just how far he’s willing to go to uncover the truth.

Movie Review:

Who is Martin Harris? Liam Neeson thinks he’s Martin Harris, a Doctor who has just arrived in Germany for an International conference. But after a car accident has him being fished out of a Berlin river with partial amnesia, he isn’t quite sure anymore. His wife (January Jones) claims not to know him, and another man (Aidan Quinn) is walking around with is ID and history. What’s worst, his wife claims the man who most definitely is not Martin Harris is actually … Martin Harris? Say what? Luckily for Martin (?), the woman who got into the car accident with him, illegal immigrant Gina (Diane Kruger, who is, ironically, a native German) is there to lend a hand. Could it all be in his head? Is he not, in fact, Martin Harris as everyone keeps telling him? But if so, then why are people trying to kill him?

All good questions, and director Jaume Collet-Serra (“Orphan”) does his best to string us along, keeping us in the dark and discovering “truths” that may not be truths at all, even as his main character does likewise onscreen. The answer does eventually come, as it must, and I have to admit, I was a little disappointed, because given the nature of the film’s advertising, I suspected the ending before it was revealed, and was proven correct. Well, mostly. You can’t really get all of it correct, as the film does feature a number of twists that you could not possibly see coming because the clues were not all there to be uncovered.

As the confused, desperate, but ultimately very determined Martin Harris, Liam Neeson spends much of the first half running around like a chicken with his head cut off. As he tries to convince everyone of his identity, Martin starts to get more desperate. Fortunately, as the evidence mounts and more strange men attempt to do him in, Martin realizes he’s on the right track, and that there is indeed a conspiracy against him. Martin has two allies in his search — Diane Kruger’s Gina, who gets into one of those perfunctory “fall in love in one night” situations with Martin, and more effective, Bruno Ganz as an ex-German spy who decides to help out mostly because he doesn’t have anything else really going on.

“Unknown” features plenty of thrilling action, chases, and gunplay, with Martin scrambling to survive his various encounters with gun-toting strangers. The fights aren’t anything special, unfortunately, but they’re effective. By now it’s pretty easy to buy Neeson as a man of action, which he is for much of the film’s second half. Supporting turns by Aidan Quinn and January Jones are adequate, though unspectacular. Jones in particular has very limited range, which is becoming increasingly apparent. I’m just saying. Frank Langella is mostly wasted as an old acquaintance of Martin Harris who may or may not have his best interests in mind.

Blu-ray Combo Pack Review:

The combo pack comes with two discs, one featuring the Blu-ray version of the movie, the other holding the standard DVD and digital copy.

As far as special features go, you get two featurettes, both clocking in at four and a half minutes each. The first is “Liam Neeson: Known Action Hero” which, as the title implies, is all about Liam Neeson and his character in the movie. The second feature is “Unknown: What is Known?”, that features the cast and crew talking about the plot of the movie.

Basically, if you’re a special features junkie, you’re coming away pretty hungry.

Buy “Unknown” on DVD and Blu-ray June 21, 2011 from Warner Home Video.