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Tuesday November 28th 2023

Unknown | 2011

Unknown filming location: Hotel Adlon Kempinski, Under Den Linden, Berlin
Unknown location: the Harrises arrive at their Berlin hotel: Hotel Adlon Kempinski, Under Den Linden, Berlin

American Bio-technologist Dr Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) arrives in Berlin with his wife Elizabeth (Diane Kruger) to attend a biotechnology conference at which revolutionary research is about to be announced by Professor Bressler (Sebastian Koch) and the controversial Arab prince who’s funded his work.

Touching down at Tegel Airport, the taxi takes the couple through Tiergarten along Straße des 17. Juni 4, past the Soviet War Memorial and the Siegessäule (Victory Column – familiar from Wim Wenders’ 1987 Der Himmel Über Berlin) to the monumental Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), for many years stranded in the no-man’s land between West and East Berlin.

Unknown filming location: Hotel Adlon Kempinski, Under Den Linden, Berlin
Unknown location: Dr Harris discovers he's been 'replaced': Hotel Adlon Kempinski, Under Den Linden, Berlin

Their destination is the new five-star Hotel Adlon Kempinkski, Unter den Linden, Pariser Platz, alongside the Brandenburg Gate, and once in East Berlin.

The original Hotel Adlon, one of the great luxury hotels of Europe, has a rather unfortunate history. It was opened in 1907 by Lorenz Adlon, a wealthy wine merchant and restaurateur (and great-grandfather of Percy Adlon, the director of Bagdad Café).

At this time, the central arch of the nearby Brandenburg Gate was reserved for the sole use of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Following WWI and the abdication of the Kaiser, the gate was opened to traffic. Poor Adlon never got used to looking for traffic here and, in 1918, was hit by a car. He survived but didn’t learn his lesson. He was knocked down and killed by a vehicle at the same spot three years later.

Having largely survived the ravages of World War II and the catastrophic Battle of Berlin, the hotel burned down less than a week before Germany’s surrender.

The current hotel opened in 1997.

As Elizabeth checks in, Martin realises he’s left his briefcase at the airport and hurriedly gets a cab to retrieve it.

Unknown filming location: Oberbaumbrücke, Berlin
Unknown location: Martin's cab plunges from the bridge into the river: Oberbaumbrücke, Berlin

Disaster strikes when a load falls from a preceding truck and Martin’s cab plunges from into the River Spree from the elaborately turreted Oberbaumbrücke in the far east of the city. A pre-Wende (reunification) crossing point into East Berlin (U-bahn: Schlesisches Tor or U-bahn-S-bahn: Warschauer Strasse), the bridge is also featured in Tom Tykwer’s 1999 Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run), with Franka Potente, and in 2015 TV spin-off, Spooks: The Greater Good and in briefly in both The Bourne Supremacy and 2016's Jason Bourne.

Waking in hospital several days later from a coma, Martin is suffering from partial amnesia and carrying no ID. He knows enough to discharge himself and return to the Hotel Adlon where, not only does Elizabeth not recognise him, she’s already accompanied by Dr Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn). And so the mystery begins.

Thrown out of the Adlon by hotel security, Martin walks the streets and seems to find himself in a sleazy red-light district. A couple of miles to the north, the area, Brunnenviertel, is not nearly as seedy as it’s made to look on screen. The ‘Hotel Pension’, where he’s unable to rent a room without producing a passport is Atelier Formschoen, 5 Deminer Straße and, calm down, there is no ‘Erotik Sex Shop’ alongside.

While leaving a message to his associate Dr Cole (Frank Langella) from a public phone, Martin feels he’s being watched from a suspicious car in the service station Aral-Tankstelle, Brunnenstraße 119.

He hurries off along Brunnenstraße and down into the nearby Voltastraße U-Bahn Station.

Once underground, however, he’s in the Platz der Luftbrücke Station, which is way to the south near Tempelhof Airport, and it’s here he only just manages to escape from a sinister pursuer.

Martin exits nearer to the city centre at the elevated U-Buelowstraße Subway Station, with its carved stone decorations. Beneath the station, he recognises the company name of a passing cab and, from it, is able to track down the driver involved in his accident, Gina (January Jones). Being an undocumented immigrant, she’s understandably reluctant to get involved.

In a desperate attempt to prove his identity, Martin goes to visit Prof Bressler at the ‘Universität für Natur und Technik’, only to find that the ‘other’ Dr Harris has beat him to it, and carries much more convincing ID.

The institute is the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen Konrad Wolf, Marlene-Dietrich-Allee 11, in Potsdam, which is not a biochemical research facility but which happens to be the oldest and largest film school in Germany.

Back at the hospital, a sympathetic nurse gives Martin the address of a friend who works as a private investigator, but things turn nastier as she’s murdered by the man who followed Martin in the subway, who then tries to abduct him.

Martin makes a getaway in an emergency ambulance, leaping out with a casual “I feel much better” at the site of an accident on Georgenstraße, which runs alongside the main Friedrichstraße Railway Station.

There’s little consolation when he calls the Hotel Adlon room from a phone on Friedrichstraße and, disconcertingly, it's the other Dr Harris who answers.

The detective, ex-Stasi man Ernst Jürgen (Bruno Ganz), seems much more positive and his enquiries dig up a possible connection with Bressler’s funder, Prince Shada (Mido Hamada), who’s already been the target of assassination attempts.

The bad guys track Martin down to Gina’s place and the two of them only just survive a murderous attack.

Unknown filming location: Kulturkaufhaus Dussmann, Friedrichstraße, Berlin
Unknown location: the car chase through the arcade: Kulturkaufhaus Dussmann, Friedrichstraße, Berlin

The surviving hitman chases them in a car, climaxing with the stunt in which Gina’s cab roars backwards along the pavement beneath the pillars along Kulturkaufhaus Dussmann, Friedrichstraße between Mittelstraße and Dorotheenstraße,which is just northeast of the the Hotel Adlon.

They hide out in packed nightclub, Tresor, Köpenicker Straße. 70, 10179 Berlin.

Tresor (German for vault) was an underground techno nightclub which also had its own record label. The club began in the vaults of the former old Wertheim department store at Leipziger Strasse 126-128, next to the famous Potsdamer Platz, but reopened in 2007 in a renovated power plant on Köpenicker Straße in Mitte. It crops up again on screen as the subterranean 'weapons lab' of BeeTee (Jeffrey Wright) in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.

Unknown filming location: Spreeufer, Berlin
Unknown location: Martin meets up with Jürgen: Spreeufer at Ebertbrucke, Berlin

Martin meets up with Jürgen on Spreeufer across the River Spree from the Bode Museum, Monbijoustrasse, where he learns of the possible connection with the Prince.

Remembering that his wife was going to visit an art exhibition, Martin sends Gina to keep an eye on the other Harris while he attempts to contact Elizabeth alone.

Unknown filming location: Bocca di Bacco, Friedrichstraße, Berlin
Unknown location: Gina keeps an eye on the 'other' Dr Harris: Bocca di Bacco, Friedrichstraße, Berlin

Gina watches from across the road as Harris II dines at Italian restaurant Bocca di Bacco, Friedrichstraße 167-168, south from Unter Den Linden.

The photographic exhibition where Martin finally manages to speak briefly with Elizabeth is the Neue Nationalgalerie, Potsdamer Straße 50, to the southwest of Potsdamer Platz. The museum of modern art, designed by Mies van der Rohe, closed in 2015 for extensive renovations which are expected to take several years.

Elizabeth tells Martin he must retrieve the briefcase from the airport and he immediately takes off for Tegel – though the airport scenes were filmed at the film-friendly Leipzig/Halle Airport, Leipzig – about 100 miles southwest of Berlin – where part of Captain America: Civil War was filmed.

There are, of course, plenty of surprises waiting for him here.

Sitting at a bus stop at Ballonfahrerweg, Schöneberg, Martin and Gina go through the contents of the briefcase and the contents trigger Martin’s memory of what exactly is going on.

Despite appearances, no five-star hotels were hurt in the making of this film.

Martin and Gina happily survive and, with new identities, go their different ways from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Berlin’s main rail terminus and the largest railway station in Europe.