Old forgotten formula wears thin

STOP me if I've said this before, but using amnesia as a plot device is getting a bit old.

The latest memory offender is Unknown, a movie starring Liam Neeson as Martin Harris who goes into a coma and wakes up to find his family and friends claim to not know him.

I haven't seen it yet, but during a quick scan of the Wikipedia page I picked up the words “assassination”, “bomb”, “terrorist” and “Canadian”.

Without reading anything else, I'm going to imagine there is some sort of conspiracy involved, there are strange people trying to kill Neeson's character and the government is somehow involved and is evil.

A quick scan of my column would help you pick up the words “haven't seen it” and “quick scan of Wikipedia page”, so this is expert territory you're dealing with folks.

The one thing I've learned in amnesia movies is that nothing good can ever come out of finding your actual identity.

I mean, have you ever seen a movie where the star loses his memory, and the big twist at the end is where he finds out he was really a middle-class bank clerk all along?

There is a better chance you'll find out you're on the wrong side of (evil terrorists, the government, criminals) after you (assassinated, stopped the assassination, accidentally stepped on the toe) of (The President, organised crime lord, Prince William, a really well-respected local mechanic).

In Liam Neeson's case, there is an upside to his amnesia— it means he can forget he was ever in the Star Wars prequels.

Unknown does present a little twist to the usual amnesia story; the coma patient actually remembers who he is, it's his wife who doesn't seem to remember.

On the bright side, if your wife forgets your identity completely she can never complain about you forgetting her anniversary or birthday ever again.

It seems a bit too obvious to use amnesia as a device to raise the level of intrigue; it's not hard to make your movie mysterious when even the main character doesn't know what's going on.

An exception is one of the most famous conspiracy movies, Mission Impossible, which was so confusing and hard to follow that it made me wish amnesia could wipe the last hour-and-a-half out of my memory when it finished.

Little tip for any spy or agent that is wrapped up in some sort of assassination or conspiracy plot— make sure you wear a helmet at all times.

You may have killed countless terrorists or political leaders but even the slightest breeze could find you waking up in a hospital with no idea who you are and men in black suits and guns coming to kill you.

I've worked it out, if I ever wake up in a movie to find my memory is gone, I'd leave it.

I'd move to a small European country, find a wife and live out the rest of my life without so much as Googling anything resembling my name.

I will say, not every single amnesia-based movie uses government conspiracies and criminals/agents coming to kill you.

In the romantic comedy First Dates, the amnesia sufferer finds herself having to date Adam Sandler every day for the rest of her life.

Actually, I think I'd rather the strange men with guns coming to kill me, thank you.

Culture Sparrow is a weekly humour column written by Callum Johnson.



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