Will The Truth Really Set Him Free?

Will The Truth Really Set Him Free?

Static Mass Rating: 3/5
UNKNOWN (Blu-ray)
Optimum Home Entertainment

Release date: July 18th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 12
Running time: 113 minutes

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writers: Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell

Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Frank Langella, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, Sebastian Koch

Cinema Review

I’ve had it a quite a few times in the years I lived in Berlin; waking up with no memory of how I got there. It’s an intoxicating city with many sights, sounds, tastes and late night bars that can have that effect on you and if you’ve ever been there, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

But Unknown is a film which aims to go a bit deeper than the exploits of a drunken night out on the town.


Based on the novel ‘Out of My Head‘ by Didier Van Cauwelaert, it’s the story Dr Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) who arrives in snowy Berlin accompanied by his much younger and exquisitely beautiful wife, Liz (January Jones). As they’re checking into the Hotel Adlon, Martin remembers he left his briefcase back at the airport. He hops back into a taxi but on the way it crashes off the Oberbaumbrücke, landing in a river. Luckily, his driver, Gina (Diane Kruger), pulls him free before the car goes under.

Martin wakes up in a hospital a few days later with severe head injuries and very little knowledge as to how he got there. He’s determined to get back to Liz as she has no idea what happened to him. And that’s where Unknown dives into the Hitchcockian book of suspense and intrigue. Liz no longer recognises him and there’s another Martin (Aidan Quinn) in his place.


As self-doubt and paranoia kick in, Martin tracks down Gina to help him try and figure out what’s really going on and who the impostor is. While Unknown takes us through the winding streets of Berlin with Martin and Gina racing to find the truth, an assignation plot emerges and we begin doubt who Martin really is.


The wonderful thing about Hitchcock classics like Marnie (1964), Rear Window (1954) and North by Northwest (1959) was that while the suspense and tension built, the stories themselves always kept you guessing until the very end. This cannot be said for Unknown though, try as it might to play it cool, it gives the story away far too quickly so that by the climax with it’s obligatory chase and action sequence there’s nothing further to dispel.

With that being said, the film does have a couple of impressive German stars including Bruno Ganz who played Adolf Hitler in Downfall (2004). Here he plays a former Stasi officer and gives a very compelling and scene-stealing performance.


  • Unknown: The Story (4:03)
  • Behind The Scenes (4:22)
  • Liam Neeson: Known Action Hero (4:32)
  • Interviews
  • Trailer (1:08)

The picture it paints of Berlin as a city is one that is cold, dark and filled with danger at every turn and I was left scoffing at the idea of Martin losing mobile phone reception while in a taxi on the open road. Suffice to say, I felt it was missing out on showing the many positive aspects of this wonderful city, but if it doesn’t fit with the story, what can you do?

If you’re looking for a action with strong performances you’ll definitely find it here, but if it’s real Hitchcock you’re after, then there’s no substitute for the real thing.

You might also be interested in these articles:

Starring Mads Mikkelsen, and adapted from the book Die Damalstuer by Akif Pirinçci, The Door is a fantasy thriller about a man who has a chance to rewrite his past.

Insidious, written by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan, is regrettably an incoherent film; part horror, part collage, part comedy, but with much to enjoy.

The Man From Nowhere, Jeong-beom Lee’s beautiful and violent action thriller, is the story of a man who tries to hide from the world to avoid the pain it brings.

Damages Season 3 (Review) – Numerous plot twists, interlaced time sequences and a thread of subtle mystery, Damages has pushed the envelope of prime time TV

Sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet gets the full Blu-ray treatment and comes packed with extras including an additional feature length movie and TV episodes.