Berlin Film Festival 2011: Liam Neeson and Diane Krueger blow up Berlin in US chart-topper Unknown

Article published on Feb. 21, 2011
community published
Article published on Feb. 21, 2011
Elizabeth (January Jones) doesn't recognise Martin (Liam Neeson), who has just got out of a four-day coma in a Berlin hospital after a freak crash in a taxi driven by Bosnian illegal immigrant Gina (Diane Krueger).
That's strange, seeing as the beginning of the film sees them flying into the city together to attend a biotechnology conference, sponsored by a Saudi prince, she the doting wife to his professor authority. The characters have all been seen before, the moments they share and the formula of the film has just been shaken up of a mosaic of every identity thriller there is. But in any case, Dr. Martin Harris, we believe who you say you are!

januaryjones Things go on to not be what they seem in this forty million US dollar production. The tension tightens like a rope throughout as the list gets longer and Neeson's character's identity is rejected by everyone, everywhere - he can't even rent a room in strict Berlin because he has no passport. 'I am inspired by Hitchcock,' explains young Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax, 2005, Orphan, 2009). 'It's a film about an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances. This is a man who wakes up one day and the world has forgotten who he is.'

jaumeUnknown took over $20m (£13m) at the US box office over the Berlin film festival closing weekend, where it premiered out of competition on 18 February. It was also a huge success with German audiences, who enjoyed imagining Berlin as the setting of an action movie thriller; the Hotel Adlon (where Collet-Sera stayed during the festival), sees an impressive explosion by the Brandenburg Gate, whilst the main central street of Friedrichstrasse saw some risqué driving stunts and street tram collisions thanks to a French team of stuntmen. 'The director of photography was so annoyed by the low streetlights in Berlin,' laughs the jovial director from Barcelona. 'I guess it's great because it's very ecological, but that's how we ended up in Friedrichstrasse'.

German actors Bruno Ganz and Sebastian Koch also draw in good performances; the former as a one-time east German Stasi agent Ernst Jürgen, who brought the laughs in for his earnest spy role, and the latter as Nobel prize-winning botanist Professor Bressler. Ganz is famous for his role as Hitler in Downfall (2004), whilst Koch, a resident of the German capital for the last two decades, is famous internationally for his role in Oscar-winner The Lives of Others (2007). The spotlight however was on Krueger, who has just shot her third film back-to-back in Berlin, but was taken up for her performance as a 'tough Balkan chick. The Yugoslav war is still on our minds,' she explains. 'It brought an interesting social background to the film, creating a complex character. It was a whole different layer of acting for me as an action film. I applaud the studio (Warner Bros. and Dark Castle) for the character not having a romantic relationship with the male lead too.'

liamneeson The all-European directed and cast movie is fun for the ride, underpinned by Liam Neeson's grave performance as a man, lost and lost. Krueger, who is playing Marie Antoinette next, did well in action scenes, but playing a Balkan straight-talking heroine doesn't mark her best performance yet. At least, watching a film set in Germany in Germany with a German actress in the leading female role but not starring as a German (you get my point) was a bit jarring to understand in the moment. Ultimately, enjoy watching Berlin as the setting of a Die Hard-Bourne Identity-Taken action film. One Romanian journalist went as far as suggesting a sequel with Bucharest's Palace of Parliament as the bomb setting. In any case, it seems a sequel is in the pipeline. Nor would it be painstakingly amiss if Liam Neeson, this last decade's new action hero, was back on board. Why not.

Watch the trailer for Unknown