Unknown

Honorable, if disposable
★★★
☆☆
Released: 
2011
Director: 
Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: 
Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn
The Setup: 
Guy gets into a car accident, when he wakes his wife doesn't recognize him.
Discussion: 

My friend and I were at a loss as to what to see--I thought there must be something by now--but turns out no, not really anything. So we settled on this as something we were both perfectly happy to see but also wouldn't have minded missing.

I never saw Neeson's big action film, Taken, which this is clearly riding the coattails of. From a distance they look pretty much like the exact same movie. We open with the Neeson as Martin Harris with January Jones as his wife. They go through customs and Martin throws his passport into his briefcase, then leaves his briefcase on the curb at the airport. So what, this guy's dumb? I guess other people are more casual than I am--my passport never leaves my person when I travel. They arrive at the hotel--this is the same hotel where Michael Jackson dangled the baby, btw--and Martin sends his wife in ahead to check in. He realizes he left his briefcase, and just hops in a cab to go back and get it, without so much as stepping inside to tell his wife where he's going? Then, as only happens when narratively appropriate, his cell won't work. Then he gets in a terrible car crash.

He wakes in the hospital, four days later. When he gets back to the hotel, his wife says she doesn't know him and there's Aidan Quinn saying HE'S Martin Harris. Hmmm, this is a puzzlement. The first 30 minutes continue fairly slowly, with little but Harris going here and there, calling this person or that one, and selectively remembering only the right thing at the right time. "There are no rules [for memory] in severe traumas of this kind," one doctor says. Yeah--and the script is dependent on it.

Eventually people start trying to kill him. He hunts down Diane Kruger as cab driver Gina, and tells her he needs a place to crash, which she immediately agrees to. Also unbelievable is that Diane Kruger is a cab driver in the first place. From this point things vastly heat up from an action standpoint.

I decided not to spoil the twist for you, because as twists go, it's fairly good, and opens up a number of other possibilities, rather than just twisting and leaving it at that. The movie has also directed your attention toward one target when actually there's another one, but done it in a way that is completely set-up for and honorable. And there's a climactic fistfight that takes place in an environment that has been quickly but completely transformed, and that's visually interesting as well.

So while this is a pretty good but ultimately fairly disposble action film, there is a lot working in its favor. For one, it plays fair, as discussed above. All of the twists of the second half are set up for and none of them seem like a betrayal or dirty trick on the audience. Second, and perhaps most important, the movie has a SHAPE. A while ago I had complained to my movie buddy Howard [the one who takes the background photos for this site] about movies that were okay, but shapeless, and he wanted examples. We brought this up again after this film, because here's an example of a film with a definite shape--it crawls along for a while, then basically energy rises at a consistent 45-degree angle--it's the classic graph of rising action you've seen in your film and fiction classes--and once it starts climbing, it just keeps going. I read a review that complained that the movie saves Neeson kicking ass for its final scene, but I think there's something admirable that saves its biggest punch for last.

Don't let this convince you it's a better film than it is, I'm just saying it plays nice with the intelligent filmgoer. It's like a housequest who remained quiet and didn't make much of an impression, but did remember to bring a bottle of booze, fold the towels and make the bed before leaving. So yeah, if you need something to see, this will fit the bill, and it was pleasant, but it's unlikely to become anyone's favorite movie.

Should you watch it: 

If you want a decent action film.