Liam Neeson, January Jones, Frank Langella

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 2
Community: star rating
5 2 0
February 17, 2011

Don't tell me that the brainteasing thriller Unknown is unworthy of Hitchcock. State the obvious much? But ignore the pileup of implausibilities and Unknown becomes a diabolically entertaining con game. Does it jerk you around? Yes. Suck it up. The ride's worth it.

Peter Travers reviews Unknown in his weekly video series, "At the Movies With Peter Travers."

From the moment Liam Neeson, as Dr. Martin Harris, arrives in a rainy, seductively dangerous Berlin for a biotech conference, I was hooked. Not by the conference – biotech, puh-leeze! What drew me in during the limo ride from the airport was the va-voom Betty Draper blonde nuzzling Martin in the back seat. That's his wife, Elizabeth, played by January Jones with the same opaque sexiness that makes mad men of us all.

Gallery: On Set and Behind the Scenes of Mad Men

Before Martin and the missus can check into a chic hotel for erotic grapplings that are shown in flashback, Martin must rush back to the airport for a briefcase he left behind. Really? Really! Look, I said, go with it or drop out now. As plot manipulation would have it, Martin's taxi is being driven by another hottie, Gina (Diane Kruger), who swerves to avoid an accident and drops into a river, where Martin suffers a head injury. After four days of amnesia, he rushes back to wifey only to find her clinging to another guy (Aidan Quinn), who says he's Martin. WTF?

The 10 Worst Movies of 2010

In 2008's surprise hit Taken, Neeson spent the movie kicking the ass of baddies trying to sell his daughter into white slavery. In Unknown, Neeson kicks ass to save himself from identity theft. Not as sexy, but the script keeps springing surprises (I'll never tell), and director Jaume Collet-Serra gives the action a slick-dick gloss worthy of every ad he ever shot for PlayStation or Budweiser.

Get more news, reviews and interviews from Peter Travers on The Travers Take

Neeson brings gravitas and sneaky wit to his role. He's a star with something extra. His scenes with Kruger, the glam spy of Inglourious Basterds, sizzle. And watching him play cat-and-mouse with acting giants Frank Langella and Bruno Ganz as men you maybe shouldn't trust is a genuine bonus. Unknown makes it fun to be fooled, even if you hate yourself in the morning.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »