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Reviews: ‘Unknown’ and ‘I Am Number Four’

By Staff | Feb 23, 2011


I didn’t understand any of it following a viewing of “Unknown,” but the dizzying twists do make a post-screening inquiry or two reasonable. Adorned with the beauty of January (“We Are Marshall”) Jones, “Unknown” snips the best from “Bourne Identity,” “Mission Impossible” and the style of directorial icon, Alfred Hitchcock.

The film opens with a professor and his wife passing customs in Germany on their way to a scientific symposium. The scramble begins with a briefcase left in a taxi. Driven by an illegal immigrant, the cab chased by an unknown pursuer plunges off the edge of a bridge into a river. The driver rescues its occupant Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson), then disappears. When he comes to four days later in a hospital room, the man only remembers bits and pieces of his identity.

Rushing to the symposium without any identification, he finds his wife of five years on the arm of another man and telling security, “I don’t know who….” Many flicks would follow the easiest scenario in solving the identity theft option. “Unknown” uncovers memory confusion and stolen identity. The foulness of the fiends has many jagged edges cultivating intrigue worthy of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Determined to find his real self, a nurse sends Neeson’s character to an old communist security chief from the former East Berlin. And, even as the detective locates proof of his client entering the county with his wife, the left turns, tweaks and surprises keep on rolling down the autobahn.

Minor characters have mostly revolving door appearances, yet their right-place-right-time movement solidifies the evolving intricately planned scheme, which has the tenacity to jut you through a ring-around double helix before tautly tossing a few effects.

Unlike “Mission Impossible,” which is intricate and lengthy like an unwinding knot, “Unknown” has an expediency often missing from similar entries in the genre.

The biotech “doc” has more at stake than who’s stolen his lovely wife, especially when he locates his briefcase at the airport, which revs this engine into against-all-odds racing mode. Avoiding shock and awe pyrotechnics (mostly), the film relies on the synchronicity of people, places and objects for a creeping ram rod intensity that’s most like a grouchy stomach gradually turning lethal.

Go and become immersed in the multiple layers of this action/thriller, where a few moments of coma and recuperation set up deft stealth that has more air time than a Cedar Point thrusting coaster.

I Am Number Four

Mixing a little “Twilight” romance with “Smallville” heroics, “I am Number Four” tackles (again) the alien-from-another-planet-come-to-earth-for-good -not-invasion theme.

While these fugitive visitors to Earth develop increasingly strong laser blasting energies from their hands, the story unveils much like an adolescent superhero saga in which the teen can’t face aloneness. That’s fortunate since complete invisibility (i.e. no school, no sports, no recreation) will squeeze life from him too.

Shot in and around Pittsburgh, a seemingly good place for heartland teen angst and coming-of-age drama, John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) has the life of the kid of a parent in the military or low level (as in often transferred) corporate management. He’s always the new kid at school and the one who transfers out in midterm. John and his father, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), must stay steps ahead of a group of bad off planet beings.

During the ordinary high school portion, John demonstrates compassion by lending a little buff to help out the school’s beaten down dude and whimsically charms shutterbug Sarah (Dianna Agron).

Days of paradise come crashing to an end, meaning fists and trips are replaced by laser blasts and debris falling. We’ve seen it all before, including the sweethearts parting for a possible sequel.

Also out this month:

– Check out married men having a week to woo women half their age in the interest of rekindling their marriage in “Hall Pass.”

– Catch Alex Pettyfer as a “scarred, ugly” dude latching on to true love in yet another spin on “Beauty and the Beast.” For “Beastly,” the girl with the lovely locks comes via “High School Musical” star Vanessa Hudgens.

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