Unknown

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Unknown Movie Poster Image
Disappointing, often-violent thriller has one good twist.
  • PG-13
  • 2011
  • 113 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 19 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie's message is a downer: You may believe one thing about yourself, but if enough people tell you otherwise, it may not be true. You can't trust anyone, and if you do, your life -- and the lives of your friends -- could be in danger.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The movie's hero isn't a particularly good role model in that he's violent and argumentative, acts desperately, and is really rather helpless. He asks for help from others, but he doesn't particularly work well in a team. He tries hard to solve his problem but in a rather destructive way, with few consequences.

Violence

Several car chases and crashes, several fistfights, and a little blood. Guns are drawn and fired. A man murders a woman by twisting and snapping her neck. A woman is knocked unconscious, a character is zapped with a Taser, and a character is sliced open with broken glass. There are huge explosions, with fatalities. Characters frequently argue with and confront one another.

Sex

The main character and his wife are shown kissing and making love in flashbacks. No nudity, but viewers hear moaning and heavy breathing.

Language

Language includes infrequent use of "s--t," "ass," "bitch," "hell," "damn," "a--hole," "oh my God," and both "Jesus" and "Christ" used as exclamations.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character gets some sort of knockout drug while in the hospital. The villains have a deadly drug that kills its victim in seconds. One character takes cyanide.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that even though it has one great plot twist, Unknown will disappoint those who liked star Liam Neeson's last thriller, Taken. It has quite a lot of violence, mostly centered around big, brawling fistfights, car chases and crashes, and explosions. Brief flashback scenes show a married couple kissing and making love (no nudity). Language is infrequent (a couple of uses of "s--t" is the worst of it), and while the bad guys use an array of mysterious lethal/knockout drugs, there are no "real" drugs. Overall, the biggest problem is that it's slow and uninvolving, with a downer of a message ("you can't trust anyone") and a main character who isn't particularly sympathetic or admirable.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bykhan2705 March 11, 2011

Disappointing thriller with a good twist

2.5/5 A man awakens from a coma, only to discover that someone has taken on his identity and that no one, (not even his wife), believes him. With the help of a... Continue reading
Adult Written byJunk4jeff February 27, 2011

At least 16+

Not appropriate to teens.
Teen, 15 years old Written bygranth October 13, 2014

About average for Liam Neeson

Unknown is about a man who gets into a car crash and wakes up from a coma with his wife married to someone who claims to be him. Unknown has just as much action... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old September 8, 2012

Awesome

Pure awesomness!

What's the story?

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) arrives in Berlin with his wife, Liz (January Jones), to participate in an important biotechnology conference. He discovers that he's left his briefcase at the airport and hops in a cab to retrieve it. The cab crashes and goes into the river, and Harris goes into a coma. When he wakes up, he tries to re-enter his life, only to find that another man (Aidan Quinn) has taken his place and that his wife doesn't recognize him. He enlists the aid of the cab driver -- a skittish, scrappy illegal immigrant named Gina (Diane Kruger) -- as well as a former Nazi secret policeman, Ernst Jürgen (Bruno Ganz), to help him figure out what's going on. Unfortunately, mysterious forces are out to stop him at all costs.

Is it any good?

This movie is mostly a dud. In Taken, Neeson became an unlikely grown-up action hero, and the movie was a hit. There, he was cunning and crafty and working actively to rescue his daughter. In UNKNOWN (which is based on a 2003 French novel), he's a victim and almost helpless, and the movie fails to recapture the same magic. Director Jaume Collet-Serra spreads the drama out too far and the movie turns sludgy and slow, with the exception of the action scenes, which are choppy and junky, perhaps in an attempt to cover up their lack of logic.

Then comes the movie's big twist -- which is a good one and has the power to explain even the biggest head-scratchers of the first 90 minutes. But it doesn't help with the movie's pacing, lack of character depth and emotional involvement, and over reliance on silly, implausible fights and chases. Old-time character actors Ganz and Frank Langella provide a few brief moments of pleasure here and there, but otherwise, it's forgettable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. Is it thrilling or disturbing? Why? How does it compare to what you might see in a horror movie?

  • Is the main character justified in going to extreme mesures to retrieve his identity? What consequences does he face for his actions? Do the ends ever justify the means?

  • Did the movie's big twist work for you? How did it work? How does it change everything that came before it?

Movie details

For kids who love thrills

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