Unknown (2011 film)
US theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jaume Collet-Serra|
|Produced by||Joel Silver
|Screenplay by||Oliver Butcher
|Based on||Out of My Head
by Didier Van Cauwelaert
|Music by||John Ottman
|Editing by||Timothy Alverson|
Dark Castle Entertainment
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. (US)
Optimum Releasing (UK)
|Running time||113 minutes|
Unknown is a 2011 French-German-British psychological thriller film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, starring Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, and Frank Langella. The film is based on the 2003 French novel published in English as Out of My Head, by Didier Van Cauwelaert.
Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) and his wife Liz (Jones) arrive in Berlin for a biotechnology summit. However, upon arriving at Hotel Adlon, Martin realizes his briefcase was left at the airport. He takes a taxicab driven by a woman named Gina, but on the way to the airport, the cab crashes off a bridge into the river. Martin is knocked unconscious upon impact, but Gina saves him from drowning before fleeing from the scene to avoid the police, since she is an illegal immigrant from Bosnia. On Thanksgiving day, Martin regains consciousness at the hospital after being in a coma for four days.
Martin returns to his hotel, only to discover another man with his wife, who claims she doesn't know him. He attempts to contact his old colleague Prof. Rodney Cole (Langella), but Cole is unavailable due to Thanksgiving in the US. Martin then heads to the office of Prof. Leo Bressler, whom he is scheduled to meet that day. However, he sees the impostor, "Martin B", already in a meeting with Bressler. As Martin attempts to prove his identity, Martin B shows him his ID and family photo – both of which have Martin's name, only with his face replaced by that of the impostor. Disillusioned by the identity crisis, Martin falls unconscious and finds himself back at the hospital. Smith, an assassin sent to target him, kills Nurse Gretchen Erfurt, but Martin escapes.
He then seeks help from Nurse Erfurt's friend, private investigator and former Stasi agent Ernst Jürgen. Martin's only clues are his notebook and Gina, who works at a diner after being fired from the taxicab company since the incident. While Martin attempts to persuade Gina into helping him clear up his identity problem, Jürgen digs up information related to Martin and the biotechnology summit. He discovers that the summit is to be attended by Prince Shada of Saudi Arabia, who is funding a secret project headed by Bressler. Prince Shada has survived numerous assassination attempts from extremists in his own country, and Jürgen suspects that Martin's identity theft may be another attempt at taking the Prince's life.
Meanwhile, Smith and another assassin, Jones, attempt to eliminate Martin and Gina, but the couple escape after a fight at her apartment, in which Gina kills Smith. Martin looks at his notebook and sees a set of numbers written by his spouse. The numbers correspond to words found on specific pages of the notebook, which appear as secret codes. Using the schedule written on the notebook, Martin confronts Liz, who tells him that he left his briefcase at the airport. Meanwhile, Jürgen receives Cole at his office, and deduces that Cole used to be a member of a legendary secret squad of mercenaries known as "Section 15", and is a very potent killer. Realizing Cole is there to kill him and he has no way of escaping, Jürgen commits suicide by drinking cyanide-laced coffee in order to protect Martin.
After retrieving his briefcase, Martin parts ways with Gina. She sees him kidnapped by Cole and Jones, and steals a taxicab and chases after Cole's van. Martin wakes up in a car park and is told by Cole that Martin Harris is a cover name, and that he, Liz and Martin B are assassins sent to target the summit. Because he injured his head during the car crash, his memory was altered and he believed that his fake Martin Harris persona was his own identity. Gina rushes in and stops Jones from killing Martin as Cole hides in his van. There is a brief fight between Jones and Gina that ends when Gina drives her car into Jones and crushes him against the rear of Cole's van. Gina drives her car into the van and sends it plummeting out the car park with Cole still inside, killing him in the process. Martin discovers a hidden compartment in his briefcase and finds two Canadian passports, realizing he and Liz were in Berlin three months prior to plant a bomb in the suite that is to be occupied later by Prince Shada for the summit.
Having become aware of his own role in the assassination plot, Martin seeks to redeem himself by thwarting the assassination and heads for the hotel with Gina in tow. They are immediately arrested by security, but Martin convinces them of his presence in the hotel three months back. He then realizes that Prince Shada is not the target, but Bressler, who has developed a genetically modified breed of corn that is capable of surviving any climate, easing the world's food supply problem. With Bressler's death and the theft of his research, billions of dollars would fall into the wrong hands. Liz uses her own copy of the notebook's secret codes to remotely access Bressler's laptop and steal the data. After being convinced there is a bomb, security evacuates the hotel. Seeing that their assassination attempt has been foiled, Liz tries to disarm the bomb, but cannot reach the disarmament button and is killed when a section of the Adlon is blown up. Martin kills Martin B, the last remaining assassin, before the latter could murder Bressler. Bressler later announces his project to the world, which will be displayed to public for free, while Martin and Gina board a train with new passports, adopting new identities.
- Liam Neeson as Dr. Martin Harris
- Diane Kruger as Gina
- January Jones as Elizabeth "Liz" Harris
- Aidan Quinn as Martin B
- Frank Langella as Professor Rodney Cole
- Bruno Ganz as Ernst Jürgen, a former Stasi operative
- Sebastian Koch as Professor Bressler
- Stipe Erceg as Jones
- Rainer Bock as Herr Strauss
- Mido Hamada as Prince Shada
- Clint Dyer as Biko
- Karl Markovics as Dr. Farge
- Eva Löbau as Nurse Gretchen Erfurt
Many German actors were cast for the movie. Bock had previously starred in Inglourious Basterds (which also starred Diane Kruger) and The White Ribbon. Other cast includes Adnan Maral as a Turkish taxi driver and Petra Schmidt-Schaller as an immigration officer. Kruger herself is also German, despite playing a non-German character.
Principal photography took place in early February 2010 in Berlin, Germany, and in the Studio Babelsberg film studios. The bridge the taxi plunges from is the Oberbaumbrücke. The Friedrichstraße was blocked for several nights for the shooting of a car chase. Some of the shooting was done in the Hotel Adlon. Locations include the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin Central Station, Berlin Friedrichstraße station, Pariser Platz, Museum Island, the Oranienburger Straße in Berlin, and the Leipzig/Halle Airport. According to Andrew Rona, the budget was $40 million. Producer Joel Silver's US company Dark Castle Entertainment contributed $30 million. German public film funds supported the production with €4.65 million (more than $6 million). The working title was Unknown White Male.
The film received mixed reviews, scoring 55 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 5.8/10 based on 184 reviews. Metacritic gives the film a 56/100 based on 38 reviews. Some critics praise the unique premise of the film and Neeson in the lead role. Richard Roeper gave the film a B+, reflecting that "At times, Unknown stretches plausibility to the near breaking point, but it's so well paced and the performances are so strong and most of the questions are ultimately answered. This is a very solid thriller." The Rotten Tomatoes consensus is: "Liam Neeson elevates the proceedings considerably, but Unknown is ultimately too derivative – and implausible – to take advantage of its intriguing premise". Variety had a similar opinion. Overall, Unknown was a strong box office hit and scored a number one opening at its first week of release. 13.2 million tickets were sold in 29 territories.
- Unknown at Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2013-04-12.
- 40 million according to Andrew Rona at Berlinale press conference, Friday February 18, 2011. See "Video Press Conference" at Berlinale web site after 30 minutes. Retrieved 2013-04-12.
- Unknown at The Numbers. Retrieved 2013-04-12.
- Studio Babelsberg press release 18 January 2011: European premiere for Studio Babelsberg co-production Unknown at the 2011 Berlinale Retrieved 2013-04-08
- "Unknown White Male Starts Principal Photography". MovieWeb.com. Retrieved 2011-02-21.
- Dargis, Manohla (2011-02-17). "Me, My Doppelgänger and a Dunk in the River". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-18.
- "Unknown Shooting in Berlin". EmanuelLevy.com. Retrieved 2011-02-21.
- Fritz, Ben; Kaufman, Amy (17 February 2011). "Movie Projector: 'I Am Number Four' to be No. 1 at holiday weekend box office [Updated]". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). Retrieved 18 February 2011.
- "Unknown Identity". MediaBiz.de. Retrieved 2011-02-21.
- "The 'Competition' of the 61st Berlinale". Berlinale.de. 2011-01-18. Retrieved 2011-01-19.[dead link]
- "Unknown". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
- "Unknown". Metacritic. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
- "Unknown". Variety. 15 February 2011.
- "'Unknown' Helps French Cinema Have an Identity Abroad in 2011". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
- Official website
- Unknown at the Internet Movie Database
- Unknown at AllRovi
- Unknown at Box Office Mojo
- Unknown at Rotten Tomatoes
- Unknown at Metacritic
- Unknown at The Numbers