Simon Brand, USA, 2006, 81 mins|
Cast: James Caviezel, Greg Kinnear, Joe Pantoliano, Barry Pepper,
Review by Michelle Moore
If a low-budget thriller by a first-time
writer and director doesn't sound too promising, think back
to the debut of Saw and remember how a simple idea developed
into a complex horror-thriller that took the world by storm.
Where Saw descended into brutality and slaughter, Unknown
examines the psychological depths of the situation. Who can
be trusted? How quickly can you remember who you are? And
when you do remember, how do you decide if you still want
to be that person?
The strength of this debut is in the
talent of the actors. Character names are hard to mention
since the storyline has them suffering from amnesia, but
the roles are well acted and there’s a great deal of suspense since viewers,
have no idea who are the good guys and who are the bad guys
trapped in the warehouse. Fragmentary memories and a two-day-old
newspaper suggest the men were all part of a kidnapping.
The question is: Who are the kidnappers and who are the kidnapped?
Part of the fun is having 80 minutes to figure out what happened,
before the characters do. What is shocking is the mysterious
chemical that erased the men's memories seems to have also
dissolved their driver's licenses?
On its own, this could have worked as a great one-set thriller
like Phone Booth, with characters engaged in a battle to
gain the upper hand as their memories slowly return. But
as the movie expands its visual and narrative field with
flashbacks and cutaways to action, the story is opened up
to the outside world, in which cops scramble to catch up
with the kidnappers. Unfortunately, the pacing is slightly
off, with the action switching between the imprisoned men
and the police, and what should be an increasing sense of
urgency inside the warehouse, weakens. It seems as though
the outside plot exists merely to break up the repetitiveness
of a single set, which would have worked much better.
This punchy and entertaining thriller
has intense suspense music at the start to get you in the
right mood before your thrown into the action; a continuation
of this in other parts of the film would have added even
more anticipation. The audience are subject to reversals
of dominance before arriving at the ending to which comes
a twist. Just when you thought that the situation had come
to a conclusion and you’ve
figured things out, filmmakers throw a twist to surprise
you, which it will. It was great to be thrown off balance
when you thought you had just gotten your footing. The script
hits a few speed bumps, with energy in scenes where truth
is revealed and twists taken, but drained in scenes connecting
these moments, but this is hardly noticeable.
This film has tremendous actors, an amazing plot and a twist
that will have you gob smacked. If you are looking for a
film that will put your mind to the test and get you thinking,
and not just watching actors go though the motions, this
is a film for you.