Unknown
R1 - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (19th February 2007).
The Film

Aside from seeing the film's trailer I knew very little about "Unknown" and in many ways this is the best part of my job, getting a chance to see movies that have either had limited runs or contained to the festival circuit. Sometimes you hit gold and other time you realize exactly why the film had a limited run. "Unknown" is one such film that certainly had a limited run and lies somewhere in the between a great film and a terrible one. It's a thriller that doesn't really offer anything new to the genre but manages to maintain suspense and intrigue throughout all the way to the film's twist ending, which doesn't come as so much of a shock but rather the twist seemed like an inevitable place for this film to end on.
"Unknown" tells the story of five men who wake up and find themselves locked in a warehouse in the middle of the desert. Each one suffers from memory loss and is uncertain what happened and why they are there. They find out that two of the three are kidnappers and what develops is a race against time to figure out who are the bad guys before their crew returns to kill them.
The film borrows from other thrillers/horrors, one such example is "Saw" (2004) in which some people wake up in a strange place, some are injured and other tied up or handcuffed to something. Instead of having to mutilate themselves or have the fear of being killed as a result of a game these five men: the man in the jean jacket (Jim Caviezel), the man with the broken nose (Greg Kinnear), the bound man (Joe Pantoliano), the man in the rancher shirt (Barry Pepper) and the handcuffed man (Jeremy Sisto) must remember who they are and find a way out before the kidnapper's crew returns. The try and logically figure out what happened as their memories come back in quick flashes that also lead the audience on.
The film's concept play heavily on what the filmmaker's chose to show you and how that information is portrayed; this allows them to manipulate the viewer until the film unrolls its twist ending. Any intelligent viewer will be able to see a twist coming, so the question is how do you deliver a twist when everyone is expecting it? Either not have a twist and surprise everyone, or you can try out a twist (or a couple in this case) that attempts to tie everything together. The filmmaker's chose to go with the latter and the result is a bit mixed. I won't go into the specifics of the ending, but you'll have to check it out yourself and make up your own mind whether it was satisfying or not depending on how great your investment was into the story.
As far as acting goes all the five guys do an exceptional job, the film plays out like a stage play as we are confined to this one space with tension being broken up with the occasional cut to the outside world and the kidnapper's crew making their way back to the warehouse. Caviezel shows he can play other characters than Jesus and does a good job here or playing a flawed character that can be either good or bad. Kinnear brings his usual brand of sarcasm to the role and makes out quite well against the other supporting players. There's nothing new here from Pantoliano that we haven't already seen and Sisto makes an impact in one scene and quickly dies away and Pepper adds another fine performance to his CV. But it's fair to say that Caviezel and Kinnear pretty much steal the show.
Director Simon Brand shot and cut the film to play off of the strengths of the concept and the style keeps the audience guessing, although a few assumptions made early turned out to be true the film may be a puzzle but it's not that difficult a puzzle. Brand displays the characteristics of a competent filmmaker and does well with the limited budget.
"Unknown" manages to capture your interest and maintains an appropriate amount of tension and intrigue throughout with some fine acting and well paced movement of the story adds some marks in favor of the film, unfortunately it doesn't offer anything new and relies too heavily on one too many twists, a few holes here and there and occasional over-editing which makes some dialogue scenes feel unnatural or too 'showy' for its own good make this an average film at best. Give it a rental.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this anamorphic transfer is quite good for a low budget independent film. The image is generally sharp although there was some grain evident in the interior shots, colors were well represented, there was little in the way of compression issues and blacks were bold, however at time a little too bold to the point where it was hard to make out what was happening in some dimly lit scenes. I couldn't spot any dirt or other problems of that nature so the print was clean, minor edge-enhancement was spotted but nothing that would deter you from the enjoyment of the print.

Audio

A single English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the dialogue is clear and distortion free, the track exhibits some subtle ambient sounds that place you inside the warehouse/factory with these characters. The score comes out well across the sound space, it's not an aggressive track but it's certainly an effective one that suits the film incredibly well.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

A series of 9 deleted & extended scenes makes up the only major extra on this disc, these scenes can be viewed individually or with the option of a 'play all' function. The scenes included are:

- "Anderson gives Frank some money" which runs for 34 seconds, Anderson collects some money from the janitor used as a decoy for collect finger prints from.
- "Molina watches Eliza on the monitor" runs for 29 seconds, Frank tells Molina to take Eliza back to the station and try to keep her calm.
- "Anderson jumps in the truck with Curtis" runs for 27 seconds, Frank orders Curtis to wait for Anderson to join him.
- "Anderson and Curtis on the trail" runs for 21 seconds, Anderson uses the tracker to follow the kidnappers as they have turned off an exit.
- "Officer Lamb pulls up to factory" runs for 30 seconds, Officer Lamb radios in after his patrol of the area.
- "Curtis talks to Officer Lamb on radio" runs for 1 minute 2 seconds, Curtis tells Officer Lamb to hold his position.
- "Anderson and Curtis arrive at the scene" runs for 22 seconds, they meet Officer Lamb on the scene.
- Rope-hoist scene extended" runs for 2 minutes 7 seconds, some additional dialogue is included in this scene where they try to break a window.
- "Extended water bottle scene" runs for 2 minutes 44 seconds, some additional dialogue is included in this scene where broken nose man taunts tied up man for being tied up in the chair.

Rounding out the extras are some start-up bonus trailers that can be skipped, they are for:

- "Fanboys" which runs for 2 minutes 45 seconds.
- "Killshot" which runs for 2 minutes 2 seconds.
- "The Protector" which runs for 1 minute 58 seconds.
- "Factotum" which runs for 2 minutes 4 seconds.

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: B- Audio: B- Extras: C- Overall: C+

 


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