Unknown, written by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell, based on the novel Out of My Head by Didier Van Cauwelaert; directed by Jaume Collet-Serra; starring Liam Neeson (Dr. Martin Harris), Diane Kruger (Gina), January Jones (Elizabeth Harris), Aidan Quinn (Martin B), Bruno Ganz (Jurgen), and Frank Langella (Rodney Cole) (2011): Serviceable action-thriller with Liam Neeson as a man who wakes up in a hospital after an accident to discover that no one seems to know who he is — including his wife. Coincidences and absurdities abound and proliferate, and the whole thing seems to have been Frankenstein-assembled from parts of Total Recall, Regarding Henry and Frantic. Still, mostly competent and enjoyable, with excellent supporting turns from a weathered, mournful Bruno Ganz as a former Stasi investigator turned P.I. and Frank Langella as one of Neeson’s university colleagues. Lightly recommended.
The Lincoln Lawyer, written by John Romano, based on the novel of the same name by Michael Connelly; directed by Brad Furman; starring Matthew McConaughey (Mick Haller), Marisa Tomei (Maggie McPherson), Ryan Phillippe (Louis Roulet), William H. Macy (Frank Levin) and Frances Fisher (Mary Windsor) (2011): Solid legal procedural makes excellent use of McConaughhey’s somewhat seedy charm, casting him as an ambulance-chasing defence lawyer who finds himself belatedly fighting for actual justice. Director Furman keeps everything moving nicely, and the whole thing feels like a throwback to the 1970’s, when thrillers didn’t involve massive explosions and giant robots. A talented cast certainly doesn’t hurt, with Phillippe, Tomei, and Macy doing superlative supporting work. Recommended.
Limitless, written by Leslie Dixon, based on The Dark Fields by Alan Glyn; directed by Neil Burger; starring Bradley Cooper (Eddie Morra), Robert De Niro (Carl Van Loon), Abbie Cornish (Lindy), and Anna Friel (Melissa) (2011): Failed writer Eddie Morra gets an IQ-boosting pill from an old acquaintance and suddenly turns into a hyperactive super-genius. Director Burger does a solid job of conveying the fast, weird rhythms of Morra’s altered state of consciousness, and there are a number of clever setpieces. The ending is far too pat, and a major plot thread never gets resolved. Still, an enjoyable time-waster. Lightly recommended.