What would you do if everything you thought you knew about your life and your identity suddenly seemed to be untrue? If even your wife kept insisting that another man was you?
Liam Neeson plays Martin Harris, or a man who thinks he is Martin Harris, a scientist on his way to a conference in Berlin. We see him with his wife, Liz (“Mad Men’s” January Jones) as the plane is landing and they seem the picture of tender domesticity. But he is in an accident shortly afterward, when his cab goes off a bridge into the water on his way to retrieve a briefcase left behind at the airport. He wakes up after a four-day coma. “Memories get lost or fractured,” the doctor cautions him. “Most of them return.”
Even though the doctor insists that he needs time to recover, he races back to the hotel only to find that Liz does not recognize him and Martin Harris (played by Aiden Quinn) is already there.
The Spout movie site calls this plot “the right man,” a variation on the popular “wrong man” storyline. Instead of the character’s being mistaken for someone else, these films show us a man who for some reason cannot be seen as who he really is. As the man I will continue to call Martin begins to doubt himself, we also question what we have seen. Why does Liz insist that she is married to Martin #2? How can Martin #2 seem to inhabit the Martin Harris world so completely and seamlessly? He even has the identical photo in his wallet, Liz on his lap at a romantic restaurant. But the man with her is Martin #2.
And why are ruthless killers chasing our Martin? “It’s like a war between being told who you are and knowing who you are,” he says.
He tracks down the cab driver (Diane Kruger as Gina, an illegal immigrant from Bosnia) and goes to an ex-Stasi interrogator-turned detective (Bruno Ganz, the highlight of the film as JÃ¼rgen) to help him find some answers, even as he is just beginning to formulate the questions.
There are some good chases through Berlin and even twistier plot developments. JÃ¼rgen’s “proud” Stasi background and Gina’s experience with Bosnian thugs turn out to be very helpful and Frank Langella shows up in the last act for one last set of complications. For some reason I can’t figure out, thrillers always have detours into nightclubs with pulsing music (really, what is the deal with these — some sort of physical manifestation of the internal chaos?). This one is thankfully brief and insignificant. Don’t think about it too hard. The plot will unravel in your head on the drive home. But while you’re watching, Neeson, Ganz, and Langella will keep you connected to the story and hoping that Martin remembers who he is.
Parents should know that this film has constant violence including chases, crashes, and explosions, murders, suicide, some graphic and disturbing images, brief non-explicit sexual situations (one overheard), and brief strong language.<P><P>Family discussion: One character comments approvingly on an adversary’s death. What does that tell you about him? What do Martin’s false memories tell you about him?<P><P>If you like this, try: the Bourne movies and the stylish thrillers “Arabesque,” “Torn Curtain,” and “North by Northwest”