A FilmExposed Film Review
Dir: Simon Brand, 2006, US, 85 mins
Cast: Jim Caviezel, Barry Pepper, Greg Kinnear, Joe Pantoliano, Jeremy Sisto
Five men regain consciousness in an abandoned warehouse. They don't know how they got there, they can't even remember their names, and there doesn't seem to be any way to escape. A nearby newspaper and a few fractured flashbacks indicate that this group has played some part in a kidnapping attempt, but are they victims or criminals? Can they overcome their suspicions of each other and work together to find a solution? And can they figure it all out before the mysterious figure on the other end of the phone turns up?
Unknown certainly has an attention-grabbing premise, and a solid cast, but that's about all this muddled thriller does have in its favour. The initial hook is enough to hold the attention for a while, though, and debut director Simon Brand effectively plays on the sense of claustrophobia and paranoia which this bizarre situation provokes. We're never quite sure who to trust and the group dynamics are interesting to observe, with uneasy alliances constantly being made and broken as new information comes to light. But the film begins to lose its focus as Matthew Waynee's screenplay insists on bamboozling us with a new twist every few minutes, and when Brand takes the action outside - to focus on the police hunting the kidnappers - he punctures the sense of tension he had carefully created.
The film never really regains that sense of tension and Unknown grows less interesting, and less credible, with every passing minute. Brand's overindulgence in flashy camerawork and hectic editing begins to grate, and the story's reliance on gimmicks and lame contrivances leads to narrative niggles which quickly develop into gaping plot holes, with the film feeling stretched even at such a lean running time. Brand and Waynee's sources of inspiration are obvious - with nods to films such as Saw (2004), Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Memento (2001) - but Unknown lacks the sense of consistency or imagination required to stand on its own merits.
Despite the film's fundamental flaws, Unknown's cast deserves credit for performing this material with more intensity than it deserves. Many of the characters - like Bridget Moynahan's worried spouse, or Peter Stormare's drearily familiar psycho - are barely developed at all, but the actors all give enjoyably edgy performances, with the leading trio of Caviezel, Pepper and Kinnear on particularly impressive form. Their efforts ensure Unknown retains a certain level of watchability, but it's never really exciting or memorable, and it becomes increasingly difficult to care about the characters' fates as the film winds down with a predictably twist-laden finale.