Disappointing, often-violent thriller has one good twist.
  • Review Date: February 15, 2011
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 113 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.


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.


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


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

Not applicable
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.

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.

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?


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, this is a dud.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:February 18, 2011
DVD release date:June 21, 2011
Cast:Diane Kruger, January Jones, Liam Neeson
Director:Jaume Collet-Serra
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:113 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sexual content

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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 young woman, he sets out to prove who he is. ok this movie isn't TAKEN, but mildly satisfying action thriller. it is very slow moving and the first 30 minutes were quite boring and painful to watch. my Flixster friends really liked it but i didn't that much. 55% Rotten Tomatoes rating is quite fair. i am not saying it is a bad movie, but i didn't liked it. i was not feeling well so i had to take Tablets, i think it was the drowsiness that i did not got into this movie, because i don't remember absolutely nothing about this movie. thats is terrible. i would have loved it but on the basis of what i felt i am reviewing it, i don;t think i would be able to watch this movie again. The Bourne Identity kind of felling but that one was far better. Taken was good. i read a critic saying it is very twisted but i didn't saw anything like that in it. the final twist was good. less but appropriate action in it. movie was unpredictable. plot was entertaining and makes you guess at several parts. plot turns a bit over the top at times but Liam makes it grounded. screenplay was fair, not much bad or good, some final touches were needed. direction was sharp i must say but didn't quite impressed me the way it should have. story was entertaining. editing of some sequences was very tightly done. cinematography was very good, i liked the locations and all. background score was awsome. really good. Liam Neeson was perfect choice for this movie always. i like him in these kind of flicks, he could have been done a slightly better job though. Diane Kruger was good, January Jones was very plastic in it, i don't like her. other supporting cast was below average. ofcourse acting wise these kind of movies lack that punch and it won't any awards. the car crash and car chasing scenes were good. this movie to some way is good. an interesting and tensed movie. i would blame my condition for not liking and getting this movie. if you are a Liam fan you will watch it for sure.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Adult Written byJunk4jeff February 27, 2011

At least 16+

Not appropriate to teens.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Adult Written bymgwynn224 March 7, 2011
What other families should know
Too much violence


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