A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Flick Review: Unknown (2011)

A friend asked me on Sunday if I thought that Unknown was anything like the 20 year old, Harrison Ford flick, Regarding Henry. Trailers are deceptive beasts as they're meant to be. Their job, if done well, is to lure the audience into the cinemas by creating a whole host of expectations.

Both are amnesia flicks true enough but they follow different trajectories. Stil, it's a valid comparison because there are some significant similarities which aren't immediately apparent in the early stages of the story. Like Regarding Henry, Unknown plays extensivesly on the lead actor's good guy persona to wonderful effect.
Nonetheless, Regarding Henry at its heart was a drama of self-discovery. A kind of adult buildungsroman. At the centre of Unknown, is a mystery and a thriller: Why are people trying to kill Martin Harris, the mild-mannered biologist and who is the man who has usurped his identity?

Amnesia stories work on the assumption that the truth is a series of jigsaw pieces that need to be fitted together. Memories are fragile, fragmented shards that don't make sense without a context. There's an interesting philosophical angle to amnesia stories that recurs and that is the suggestion that a bump to the head manages to bring out the better qualities of its victim. Why it doesn't usually go the other way, intrigues me.
If so, I'm surprised it's not a technique used more often in criminal rehabilitation.

Liam Neeson is to me the Fred Astaire of action films. There's an old-fashioned movie star elegance about him even when he does a turn as a bewildered action hero. Even when he's takes out the baddies, he does it with such style and grace. The success of this film rests mainly on his shoulders because it is from his perspective that the entire narrative turns.

Unknown is an entertaining film though not a great one. I had hoped that it would be in the same league as an earlier kick-ass Neeson outing, Taken but it doesn't quite have the same emotional quality of its predecessor. No doubt, fighting for your own survival isn't quite as heart-rending as the desperation of saving your child from sociopathic, greedy thugs and pedophiles.

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