REVIEW: Unknown [2006]

“He must be tied up for a reason”

Here is a little known film that never reached theatres in Buffalo, despite its all-star cast of talented actors. When you have guys like Jim Caviezel, Greg Kinnear, Barry Pepper, Peter Stormare, and Joe Pantoliano, with Jeremy Sisto and Bridget Moynahan thrown in, and an intriguing trailer about five men waking up with amnesia in an abandoned warehouse, not knowing which side of good they are on, (a couple people are hurt and/or tied up), how could this film not be raking in the cash? It seems as though the Weinsteins have shelved the project and released it on DVD just to recoup some semblance of a profit. With no marketing at all, except the obligatory internet site banners of the home video release, I would almost think the film could have done better if the ex-Miramax producers never bought it. Maybe an independent release would have been in the future, but it is too late for all that now.

Unknown, no matter how much it seems to have been left for dead, is a really entertaining thriller. The premise is solid, with these men trapped in a warehouse trying to wrap their heads around who could possibly be the kidnappers and who the kidnapped, while also figuring out a truce to agree to work together and eventually walk their separate ways once they are freed. The inevitable recall of memory slowly occurs and it becomes a race against time to try and get out before the bad guys remember who is who and are faced with the decision to honor their gentlemen’s agreement or to become the criminal they were before. Tensions flare constantly, and flashes of their pasts crop up and cloud their judgment as they find out they might not be as clean as they think they are. During the confusion in the warehouse, we are also treated to the outside world where a wife makes a ransom drop to get her husband back and the cops attempt to trail the kidnappers and find the hostage. All the story threads eventually converge into a surprising yet believable series of twists at the conclusion. I generally don’t like twist endings, but the build-up of the film is so good and the recognition of each character of themselves allow me to push the fact that the twist really was just thrown in without any foreshadowing. In other words, where the twist would generally take me out of the film because it is so random, the acting and progression of each person gives the audience the ability to look past the ruse and accept it for what it is, a cleverly orchestrated, final mystery uncovered.

The stars of the show are by far Pepper and Caviezel. These guys are probably two of the best young actors working today and continue to surprise me with their performances. The way they are able to act confused with no recollection of who they are, yet still believably maintain the honor and bravery they know in their hearts, is amazing. Both roles are difficult to play yet they both do so deftly and successfully. Especially Caviezel, whose character changes constantly as he remembers fractured moments from his past at every look into a mirror. It is this role that solidifies the decisions made at the end and leave the audience with a smile on their faces rather than feeling cheated by the contrived change of pace thrown at them. Kinnear, Pantoliano, and Stormare are their usual solid selves, and Jeremy Sisto makes me wonder why we don’t see more of him in film. It was also a pleasure seeing Chris Mulkey in a small role—I always like to see old cast members of “Twin Peaks” still working in the biz.

Unknown is first and foremost a character study, heavy on the dialogue and storyline. However, there is a lot of action and intrigue allowing the events to never become boring or monotonous. The writer and director seem to know what they were going for and continue the trip at a brisk pace, never looking back to further explain events. We as an audience uncover every secret along with the character. Knowing at all times that no person knows more than us is refreshing and a joy because we can sit back and watch it all unfold without the guessing game of wondering who has an ulterior motive. No one does here; they have all awoken with a clean slate and only by their actions today can they define who they really are.

Unknown 8/10 | ★ ★ ★


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