You know, I’ve always believed that a car chase is hugely improved by the introduction of rolling stock, and my recent viewing of the movie Unknown confirms that deep-seated prejudice.
The tram in question is in Berlin, that well-known convergence point for baddies of all kinds, and the man behind the wheel of the car in question is Liam Neeson, alias Dr Martin Harris. Harris and his lovely but very skinny wife January Jones are in Berlin for a posh conference on biotechnology, but Martin leaves his passport at the airport and has to dash back in a taxi to get it. Much to his surprise, he is hit by a falling fridge and almost drowned, waking from a coma four days later to find that he has missed most of the conference’s swanky cocktail parties and hobnobbing.
From there, I think it would be safe to say that things go from bad to worse. Martin Harris finds that there are now two of him – another Dr Martin Harris, with apparently the same wife, same career and same memories, and a penchant for punching him in the face – and no one will believe his side of the story. His very skinny wife, however, seems to have a rather better grasp on the situation. If you find the movie dragging a little, you can always count the vertebrae in her spine: I don’t know who put it about that Mad Men was full of voluptuous beauties, because Jones’ back looks like something out of Species (1995).
Unknown is rather slow to start, but once it starts, it’s actually good fun. All right, so we have been here before, and if Martin Harris had been sent to a support group for People With Lost Identities, he might well have met Jason Bourne and Evelyn Salt. (‘Hello, my name is Jason, and I was part of a secret government program that stole my identity and erased all my memories.’ ‘Hi, Jason’.) But apart from that, it’s good fun. There are some nice explosions, car chases with trams, and a really haggard old Stasi officer who makes a nice change from the Denholm Elliott helpful types who turn up in these movies. Frank Langella has a small but significant role, but as you already know, Frank Langella is always a bad guy, no matter how genial-looking he seems.
I would wait for the DVD, but then by all means, enjoy it. Liam Neeson’s always nice to look at, and he’s also a dab hand at braining people with the shower rail in dark apartments, so you’ve got that to look forward to as well.