IS psychological thriller Unknown cinema’s first venture into the perilous world of international botany? Can’t say for sure either way, but fingers crossed it’ll be the last.
Liam Neeson is plant fan Dr. Martin Harris, who’s in Berlin for a conference about corn, when his taxi plunges into a river. His heart stops for several minutes. Substantial memory loss occurs. He does, however, remember his wife, Elizabeth. But she’s nowhere to be seen...
When Dr. Harris does finally locate his spouse, she doesn’t recognise him. And she’s with another man. Who’s called Martin Harris. Who is also a leading botanist. What on earth is going on? Neeson’s Martin immerses himself into this murky landscape of shifting identities, continental assassins, benevolent taxi drivers, known unknowns, unknown knowns and an ex-Stasi agent who may or may not be a very bad man.
It’s an enjoyably daft premise but the many, and gratuitous, plot twists soon get wearisome. Proceedings are not helped by the fact that Neeson, pushing 60, seems a little too old for his role: stumbling around the city, he looks authentically confused, but in a be-slippered, care-home kind of way.
Mad Men’s January Jones plays Neeson’s occasional wife, Elizabeth. No matter how many wonky identity thrillers she’s cast in, she will always be Betty Draper. In every scene she appeared, I longed for her to look glum, pensively smoke a very long cigarette and then smash a chair in a bout of rage. She did none of the above and Unknown was a worse film for it.
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU
IF you go into The Adjustment Bureau with an open mind, you are likely to enjoy this film, a lot. Part sci-fi, part thriller, but largely a romance, it is based on a short story called Adjustment Team by Philip K Dick, which debates the question: are we in control of our destinies or are we part of a bigger picture manipulated by otherworldly forces?
Matt Damon plays David, an upthrusting young politico, to Emily Blunt’s quick-witted contemporary ballet dancer, Elise. The pair randomly collide in a hotel mens’ room to find sparks fly. But was their meeting random – or was it part of ‘The Plan’? That is the question.
When David discovers a bunch of suits in fedoras on his tail, showing up here, there and everywhere to prevent him from pursuing Elise, he gives chase. The hat squad led by the legendary Terrence Stamp, have some impressive supernatural powers tucked up their tailored sleeves, but hey, no one stands in the way of true love, right?
At times, the twists are clever, at others, silly, but overall you’ll be glued to the screen thanks to the pacy action, Damon’s gripping performance (nothing short of Bourne) and Blunt’s undeniably beguiling nature.
So, if you can stop yourself from picking holes in the plot and suspend your disbelief for 90 minutes, you’re in for quite a ride.
Well that’s the plan anyway.
JOHNNY Depp stars as Rango, a pet chameleon with heroic aspirations who longs to escape the confines of his terrarium. Rango gets his chance when he ends up in Dirt, a town in need of a hero.
Populated by a comic animal menagerie of typical western characters, Dirt is running out of water. After Rango convinces the local saloon bar of his heroic pedigree by stirringly recounting his (entirely made-up) past feats, the town appoints Rango as its sheriff in the hope that he can save them. Faced with overcoming a corrupt mayor, a rattle-snake voiced by Bill Nighy and the odd moment of existential crisis, Rango has to prove he can actually be a hero, rather than just play one.
This is an affectionate treatment of the Western genre and you can see why Depp was drawn to it.
Reunited with Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski Depp is, of course, brilliant. Rango is never anything but loveable, yet garners great comedy from his oscillation between affable hopelessness and dangerous self-delusion. He’s pleasingly supported by a cast that includes Isla Fisher, Ray Winstone and Abigail Breslin.
At 107 minutes Rango does start to drag and could probably have done with a bit more time in the editing suite. But it’s self-aware and clever enough for adults to enjoy, especially western fans. And children will love it which is, ultimately, the point.