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Unknown is a 2011 psychological action film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, starring Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, and Frank Langella.[5] The film is based on the 2003 French novel published in English as Out of My Head, by Didier Van Cauwelaert.[6] Released in the United States on February 18, 2011, the film received mixed reviews from critics and grossed $136 million against its $30 million budget.

Unknown Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Produced by
Written by
  • Oliver Butcher
  • Stephen Cornwell
Based on Out of My Head
by Didier Van Cauwelaert
Music by
Cinematography Flavio Labiano
Edited by Timothy Alverson
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • February 16, 2011 (2011-02-16) (Westwood)
  • February 18, 2011 (2011-02-18) (United States)
  • March 2, 2011 (2011-03-02) (France)
  • March 3, 2011 (2011-03-03) (Germany)
  • March 4, 2011 (2011-03-04) (United Kingdom)
Running time
113 minutes
  • English
  • German
Budget $30[2]–40[3] million
Box office $136.1 million[4]



Dr. Martin Harris and his wife Liz arrive in Berlin for a biotechnology summit. At their hotel, Martin realises he left his briefcase at the airport and takes a taxi to retrieve it. On the way, the taxi is involved in an accident and crashes into the Spree, knocking Martin unconscious. The driver, Gina, rescues him and flees the scene, as she is an illegal immigrant from Bosnia. Martin regains consciousness at a hospital after having been in a coma.

When Martin returns to the hotel, he discovers Liz with another man who she says is Dr. Harris, and she claims to not know him. The police arrest Martin. He phones a colleague, Prof. Rodney Cole, but reaches only his voice mail. Aboard a train, Martin writes down his schedule for the next day by memory. Martin visits the office of Prof. Leo Bressler, whom he is scheduled to meet, but sees the impostor, "Martin B", already there. As Martin attempts to prove his identity, Martin B shows him his ID and family photo, both of which have the impostor's face. Overwhelmed by the identity crisis, Martin falls unconscious, then finds himself back at the hospital. Smith, an assassin sent to target Martin, kills a nurse, Gretchen Erfurt, but Martin escapes.

He seeks help from Erfurt's friend, private investigator and former Stasi agent Ernst Jürgen. Martin's only clues are his father's book on botany and Gina, who since the crash has been working at a diner. While Martin persuades Gina to help him, Jürgen researches Martin and the biotechnology summit. He discovers the summit will be attended by Prince Shada of Saudi Arabia, who is funding a secret project headed by Bressler. Prince Shada has survived numerous assassination attempts, and Jürgen suspects that Martin's identity theft might be related.

At Gina's apartment, Smith and another assassin, Jones, attack; the couple escapes after Gina kills Smith. In his book, Martin finds that Liz has written a series of numbers that correspond to words found on specific pages. Using his schedule, Martin confronts Liz alone; she tells him he left his briefcase at the airport. Meanwhile, Jürgen receives Cole at his office and reveals his findings about a secretive assassination group known as 'Section 15'. Jürgen soon deduces that Cole is a former mercenary and potent killer from the group. Knowing Cole is here to kill him and he has no way of escaping, Jürgen commits suicide by ingesting cyanide to protect Martin from Section 15.

After retrieving his briefcase, Martin parts ways with Gina. When she sees him kidnapped by Cole and Jones, she steals a taxicab and chases them. When Martin wakes, Cole says Martin Harris is a cover name in the Section 15 assassin team. Liz notified Cole of Martin's head injury, which caused him to believe his persona was real; Martin B was activated as his replacement. Gina runs over Jones before he can kill Martin, then rams Cole's van, killing him. After Martin finds a hidden compartment in his briefcase containing two Canadian passports, he remembers that he and Liz were in Berlin three months prior to plant a bomb in Prince Shada's suite.

Now aware of his own role in the assassination plot, Martin seeks to redeem himself by thwarting it. Hotel security immediately arrests Martin and Gina, but Martin convinces them of his earlier presence in the hotel. Liz uses her own copy of the book's secret codes to remotely access Bressler's laptop and steal the data. After being convinced of the bomb's presence, security evacuates the hotel.

Martin suddenly realizes that Prince Shada is not Section 15's target, but rather Bressler, who has developed a genetically modified breed of corn capable of surviving harsh climates. With Bressler's death and the theft of his research, billions of dollars would fall into the wrong hands. Seeing their assassination attempt has been foiled, Liz dies attempting to disarm the bomb. Martin kills Martin B, the last remaining Section 15 assassin, before the latter can murder Bressler. Bressler announces he is giving his project to the world for free, while Martin and Gina board a train together with new identities.


Many German actors were cast for the film. Bock had previously starred in Inglourious Basterds (which also starred Diane Kruger) and The White Ribbon. Other cast includes Adnan Maral as a Turkish taxi driver and Petra Schmidt-Schaller as an immigration officer. Kruger herself is also German, despite playing a non-German character.


Friedrichstraße, Berlin, is the scene of a car chase
Oberbaumbrücke, from which the taxi plunges into the river

Principal photography took place in early February 2010 in Berlin, Germany, and in the Studio Babelsberg film studios.[5] The bridge the taxi plunges from is the Oberbaumbrücke. The Friedrichstraße was blocked for several nights for the shooting of a car chase. Some of the shooting was done in the Hotel Adlon. Locations include the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Berlin Friedrichstraße station, Pariser Platz, Museum Island, the Oranienburger Straße in Berlin and the Leipzig/Halle Airport.[7] According to Andrew Rona, the budget was $40 million.[8] Producer Joel Silver's US company Dark Castle Entertainment contributed $30 million.[9] German public film funds supported the production with €4.65 million (more than $6 million).[10] The working title was Unknown White Male.


Unknown was screened out of competition at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival.[11] It was released in the United States on February 18, 2011.

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, the film has an approval rating of 56% based on 191 reviews; the average rating is 5.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Liam Neeson elevates the proceedings considerably, but Unknown is ultimately too derivative – and implausible – to take advantage of its intriguing premise."[12] On Metacritic the film has an average weighted score of 56 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[13] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[14]

Richard Roeper gave the film a B+ and wrote, "At times, Unknown stretches plausibility to the near breaking point, but it's so well paced and the performances are so strong and most of the questions are ultimately answered. This is a very solid thriller."[15] Justin Chang of Variety called it "an emotionally and psychologically threadbare exercise".[16]

Box officeEdit

Unknown grossed $63.7 million in North America and $72.4 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $136.1 million.

It finished a number one opening at its first week of release with $21.9 million.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d "Unknown (EN) [Original title]". LUMIERE. Retrieved 2018-01-30. 
  2. ^ Unknown at Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2013-04-12.
  3. ^ 40 million according to Andrew Rona at Berlinale press conference, Friday 18 February 2011. See "Video Press Conference" at Berlinale web site after 30 minutes. Retrieved 2013-04-12.
  4. ^ Unknown at The Numbers. Retrieved 2013-04-12.
  5. ^ a b "Unknown White Male Starts Principal Photography". Retrieved 2011-02-21.
  6. ^ Dargis, Manohla (2011-02-17). "Me, My Doppelgänger and a Dunk in the River". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-18.
  7. ^ "Unknown Shooting in Berlin". Retrieved 2011-02-21.
  8. ^ Andrew Rona at Berlinale press conference, 18 February 2011. See "Press Conference" video at Berlinale web site after 30 minutes. Retrieved 2012-01-23.
  9. ^ Fritz, Ben; Kaufman, Amy (17 February 2011). "Movie Projector: 'I Am Number Four' to be No. 1 at holiday weekend box office [Updated]". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  10. ^ "Unknown Identity". Retrieved 2011-02-21.
  11. ^ "The 'Competition' of the 61st Berlinale". 2011-01-18. Archived from the original on 22 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  12. ^ "Unknown (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "Unknown reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  14. ^ "Unknown–CinemaScore". Retrieved February 28, 2011. 
  15. ^ Roeper, Richard (2011). "Richard Roeper's Reviews - Unknown Review". YouTube. Reelz Channel. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  16. ^ "Unknown". Variety. 15 February 2011.
  17. ^ "'Unknown' Helps French Cinema Have an Identity Abroad in 2011". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-02-07.

External linksEdit