Unknown (2011)

Rated: PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sexual content
Length: 113 minutes
Grade: B-,C+,C,C=C+
Rotten Tomatoes: 56% favorable, 5.8/10 average
Budget: $30 million
Box Office: $135 million (64 U.S., 67 Intl., 4 DVD)

Written by: Oliver Butcher (First major script) and Stephen Cornwell (First major script), based on the novel by Didiear Van Cauwelaert
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, House of Wax, Goal 2)

Starring: Liam Neeson
With: Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, and Frank Langella

After he is injured in a terrible car accident, a biochemist at an international conference in Munich suddenly finds his wife and his life stolen by a total stranger pretending to be him.

Entertainment Value: B-
Most of the ingredients in this movie are good, and certainly Langella brings a wonderful hint of the sinister to it. It’s a decent enough action thriller, with the usual plausibility issues. See, there’s a point when all action movies become preposterous, and you must either stop enjoying the film or else suspend disbelief to continue watching with any pleasure at all. In this movie, it’s the car chase scene at 62 minutes. And the problem is that they way too long to give us the twist explanation whch then would have made the scene at least plausible. Plus, the twist explanation doesn’t seem to quite cover all of the territory once you know it, and it certainly doesn’t explain the slew of murders or attempted murders. Seems like a lot of wasted resources to me. Also, given the twist, you’re sort of left in a no man’s land as far as what you want to see happen even so. Still, B- means above average, and it is that.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol A-, Sex/Nudity B-, Violence C, Language B
The big issue in this movie is going to be violence, which involves several semi-bloody killings, bombings, and car crashes. Sexuality is a few flashback scenes of lovemaking with no nudity. But the nice thing I can report is that unlike a lot of PG-13 movies, this one has only a minor amount of swearing in it. 2 S-words, I believe, and a few other mild profanities. It’s PG-13, but it’s not one of those almost R PG-13s by any stretch.

Significant Content: C
The truth is out there if you look for the details carefully enough. Some people are trying to do real good in the world and some are out for themselves or profit. Personal identity is a very complicated matter, but you are ultimately who you choose to be.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
Some interesting questions are raised, but sadly they are relegated to the background of the movie rather than really dealt with. For instance, there is absolutely no treatment of Harris’s identity or background before all of this, which would really have raised some nice complexities for his character and his future.

Discussion Questions:
~“If you ask enough questions, the man who is telling a lie will eventually change his story, but the man who is telling the truth cannot change his story.” Do you think this is true? Does this sort of an approach solve to distinguish between a man who is telling the truth and a man who has believed a lie?
~What is the difference between sanity and insanity? If someone challenged you on your own account of your identity or your life, what would it take to make you doubt yourself?
~Discuss Harris’s motivations at various points in the movie. Why does he do what he does?
~In the end, do you think the explanation of everything adds up with the facts as you experience them? What areas seem like they don’t fit? Consider perhaps the photo and the effort to deactivate the bomb.
~What is the point of having the investigator be former Stazi? In his soliloquoy about Germany first forgetting Nazism and Communism, what is the movie trying to say? What comparison is the movie trying to draw between Harris and Germany? What would you do with either of them if you were a prosecutor?
~How much does it matter whether your memories are real or false in terms of how much they shape your notions of who you are?
~What is the meaning of the title?

Overall Grade: C+
A fairly interesting thriller which only hints at some interesting questions instead of being diligent enough to really explore them.

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