'Unknown' is slow. Not a good, methodical slow like 'The American.' This is bad slow. Like waking up from a four day coma slow. A movie which was touted as a thriller ends up being just another by-the-numbers, convenient amnesia movie.
Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) has it all, a beautiful wife ('Mad Men's January Jones), a nice life as a doctor in botany, and a chance to meet the top minds in the field at a conference in Berlin. When they get to Berlin, Dr. Harris accidentally leaves his briefcase behind as he's packing up the taxi cab. If there was ever a time to not forget one of your belongings, this is it. The camera pans down to the briefcase as faint ominous tones play. We are forced to assume this isn't going to end well.
The minute they hit the hotel Dr. Harris realizes his mistake and hops into another cab to go retrieve his briefcase. His wife, on the other hand, goes into the hotel to check in. As he's driving back to the airport with his uncharacteristically beautiful taxi driver (Diane Kruger), they're involved in a huge accident. The taxi swerves off the road, plummets over the edge of the bridge, and plunges into the water below. Dr. Harris hits his head and that's the last thing he remembers.
In 'Unknown' the amnesia works two ways. First of all, when Dr. Harris wakes four days later in a hospital bed, he only has fragments of his memory to work with. He knows his name, his wife's name, but he can't remember much about why he's in Berlin. When he finally finds his wife at their hotel she doesn't seem to remember him either. Everyone's forgotten everything. Which way is up? No one knows.
In the vein of the 'Bourne' movies, Dr. Harris begins to piece together his memory fragments to create a larger picture of his past. He befriends that taxi driver, and the two spark up a relationship. Starting to get the feeling you've seen this movie before? That's because you have.
There's nothing overtly special about 'Unknown'. It rips ideas from other, more capable thrillers, and mixes them all together, hoping for something good. Instead, a convoluted movie arises from the stew of ideas, the perfect recipe for disaster, sprinkled with terrible pacing. In fiction they call it a "hook." You're supposed to grab your reader's attention in the first few paragraphs, or you risk losing their attention forever. Worse yet they may even set down the book and move on. At times I felt like I wanted to stop 'Unknown' and move on. It's pacing is all wrong. It labors on and on as Dr. Harris goes from one person to the other pleading with them that he is indeed Dr. Harris. We have to get through a half dozen such encounters before anything of substance starts happening.
'Unknown' is generic as they come. This is one of those movies that requires there to be a giant countdown display on a bomb, even though the bomb itself isn't visible to anyone except us. It tries it's best to keep you guessing as it continues to twist and turn through ludicrous plot shifts. The ending has a "well that's the best we could come up with" feel to it. There are numerous thrillers out there that are more intriguing and engaging than 'Unknown'. You're better off watching any of them.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Unknown' comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray case, with a slipcover that has identical artwork as the case. The movie is housed on a BD-25 Blu-ray Disc. The package doesn't indicate specific region coding, but has only been tested for the A region.
Despite a lackluster thriller, it's hard to find anything wrong with Warner's 1080p transfer of 'Unknown'. It has a sleek action thriller look. It might use just a bit too much teal color timing, but that's what we've come to expect from our action movies lately.
'Unknown' has a nice glossy sheen to it. A sleek look that comes with modern day action movies. It's been bathed in an icy color palette, which is fitting seeing as it's cold and snowing for most of the movie. The film is set in Berlin, and the fine detail certainly bolsters the look of the famous European city. Intricate brickwork is perfectly defined without a hint of aliasing creeping in. Sharpness is at a maximum here as facial details are easily recognizable right down to the two-day action hero stubble Neeson is sporting. January Jones looks as elegant as ever as the film's look never messes with her natural milky white skintones. As a matter of fact, everyone's skintone is spot-on.
I couldn't find any evidence of video or compression anomalies. There are flashback scenes that are purposefully distorted and washed out, but that's nothing to worry about as it is the intent of the movie. If there was one thing – besides the movie's affection for teal – that I could complain about it's that whites seem to burn just a tad too hot. Explosions feature some whites that are a little too overblown for the picture. Even then I seem like I'm grasping at straws trying to find anything wrong with Warner's presentation.
This transfer is near demo-worthy for much of its runtime.
If the video is damn near demo-worthy, then the audio must be demo material. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix provided by Warner is an action movie's dream. It's filled to the brim with all kinds of engaging, immersive sound that sucks you into the movie from the very beginning.
'Unknown's mix is a rocking, rolling thrill-ride of sounds. Ambient sound is constantly pulling you into the movie. During the couple car chases that the movie has, the rear channels are alive with street level activity. People jump out of the way of speeding cars, engines rev, and public property is destroyed in a cacophony of sound. LFE is plentiful as cars smash into each other. It booms with original music from John Ottman and Alexander Rudd. Their action-focused soundtrack drives the movie.
Directionality works wonders while people are speaking out of frame. Cars zoom from one end of the frame to the other, while panning effects seamlessly follow them through the soundfield. Dialogue is always clear and concise. Truthfully, I can't find anything wrong with 'Unknown's explosive audio mix. Simply stated, it's a load of fun.
'Unknown' isn't a great thriller by any stretch of the imagination. The movie is bogged down by its own gargantuan weight. In the end it feels like a rip-off of the 'Bourne' movies, right down to the smallest detail. While the movie is a big disappointment, the audio and video presentations are demo-worthy. This is a good looking, good sounding disc that will impress anyone who sits down to check out what your home theater can do. The special features are basically thrown on without much thought. I think we can chalk this one up to a bad flick on a great disc.