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A man awakens from a coma, only to discover that someone has taken on his identity and that no one, (not even his wife), believes him. With the help of a young woman, he sets out to prove who he is.
For more about Unknown and the Unknown Blu-ray release, see Unknown Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on June 8, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Bruno Ganz, Frank Langella
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
» See full cast & crew
Unknown Blu-ray Review
*Stretches. Yawns. Shrugs. Sighs. Nods with Slight Approval*
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, June 8, 2011
Unknown is a plot twist wrapped inside of a riddle slathered in complete and utter implausibility. It creeps and stalls, lurches and lunges, shrugging off any and every glaring plot hole that might put another thriller out of its misery. And just when things can't get any more convoluted (or any more reminiscent of Roman Polanski's Frantic), it takes a sharp right at [spoiler], jams its foot on the action-accelerator and never looks back. Come to think of it, Unknown stitches together the remains of at least seven different films, making it as derivative as it is cumbersome and as predictable as it is uneven. Yes, it plays things relatively straight. No aliens, no supernatural mumbo jumbo, no purgatorial dreamscapes... just international intrigue that, frankly, doesn't know when to quit. So why the decent score? For all its flaws, for all its ridiculous twists and turns, for all its chewy genre performances, Unknown held my undivided attention until the madcap end. Oh, it's slow (at least for the better part of seventy minutes). It can be infuriating, I know. It requires tremendous suspension of disbelief, that much is sure. But with Liam Neeson at the helm and a solid supporting cast at his back, director Jaume Collet-Serra's twisty Euro-thriller is actually quite a bit of over-plotted, popcorn-addled fun.
While attending a biotechnology summit in Berlin with his wife Liz (January Jones, Mad Men), Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson, Taken) is involved in a violent car wreck that leaves him in a coma for four days. He wakes up, disoriented and confused, and quickly realizes his memory of the accident and the events that preceded it aren't entirely clear. Strangely though, no one -- not even his wife -- seems to have been looking for him in the four days that he was missing. Returning to his hotel, he's soon shocked to discover Liz doesn't recognize him at all. In fact, she's married to a completely different man (Aidan Quinn, Flipped) who claims he's the real Dr. Martin Harris. With no way to prove his identity and few clues at his disposal, Harris tracks down the female cab driver (Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds) whose driving landed him in the hospital and turns to an Stasi agent-turned-private detective (Bruno Ganz, The Reader) in an effort to make sense of it all. As the stakes are raised and assassins come filing out of the woodwork, an old friend (Frank Langella, The Box) arrives to help identify the real Dr. Harris.
If you had the misfortune of seeing Unknown's theatrical trailer or TV spots, you've already stumbled across the film's deepest, darkest secrets. As is so often the case nowadays, the previews were as riddled with subtle spoilers as Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell's screenplay is riddled with plot holes (chasms, really). Not that any of it ruins the film per se, but it does take some of the spark and sparkle out of Collet-Serra's identity-thriller fireworks. Either way, the question of who Dr. Martin Harris is pales in comparison to the more pressing questions that slowly but surely begin seeping out of every crack in his dapper doppelgänger's story. To Collet-Serra's credit, there are moments of near-brilliance. Desperate to prove himself, Neeson's Harris squares off against Quinn's Harris in a heated tête-à-tête in which both men rattle off strikingly similar personal memories, sometimes saying the same things, word for word. It's a creepy little scene; one that tragically sets the bar too high for everything that follows. For every brain-bending psychological conundrum, there lurks a ludicrous solution that requires baffling leaps in logic. Worse, when all the answers have come to light, the entire puzzle makes even less sense than it did before. Langella is tasked with short-lived expositionary posturing when a meatier role would have been far more satisfying; Neeson is eventually demoted in service of a tale that gets more knotted and tangled as it inches along; and the rest of the cast hurries to catch up, something they never quite manage to do.
Yet it's Neeson and his castmates' performances that keep Unknown kicking through its death throes. Neeson nimbly shuffles through at least four incarnations of Dr. Harris, evolving every time new truths and old memories surface. With a hint of Taken-aggression and a sliver of Five Minutes of Heaven-resignation, he shoulders the full weight of the film's burdens, even when Collet-Serra's shaky house of cards threatens to come tumbling down. And his supporting actors? Langella steals the show, if only for ten or fifteen minutes. Quinn, always a favorite of mine, doesn't disappoint. Ganz's Stasi sleuth could easily have been the main character in a different film. Sebastian Koch (The Lives of Others) is underused, but makes the most of every scene. And Kruger functions well as connective tissue, despite the fact that her cab driver could be yanked from the narrative without affecting much at all. Only Jones -- vacant, sterile and altogether disposable -- stands apart from the otherwise smartly assembled cast. Any blonde with a bewildered expression could have filled Liz's shoes in Jones' stead, and the good doctor's wife would have been better for it. Ultimately though, Unknown is too bumpy and broken an international thrill-coaster to sustain multiple rides. Genre junkies will enjoy it as a Friday night rental, but little more. Just don't think about it too hard once the credits roll; you'll find yourself liking it less and less the more you retrace its steps.
Unknown Blu-ray, Video Quality
No unevenness here. Unknown's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is a cold-blooded killer, dispensing scene after scene with methodical precision. Detail is exacting down to the last pore or errant hair. Fine textures are clean, distinct and wonderfully resolved, edge definition is sharp enough to draw blood (without any troubling ringing), delineation is remarkably revealing and grain, however mild and unobtrusive it may be, is intact. And it isn't just closeups of Neeson's weary mug or Jones' smooth skin that look fantastic; establishing shots and wider angles are equally impressive and only a few scenes exhibit very little softness. Moreover, Flavio Labiano's wintry, intentionally green-skewed palette is striking and relatively lifelike (even at its bleakest), primaries make their presence known, fleshtones are thoroughly convincing and black levels are deep and satisfying (barring a handful of muted shadows). And I didn't stumble across any significant oddities -- banding, aliasing, smearing and the like -- other than the faintest hint of artifacting in three scenes. (Most won't even notice it, though. I almost missed it, myself.) All in all, Unknown's high definition video presentation is a spectacular one.
Unknown Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner's immersive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is a tasty genre treat as well. Low-end output is reasonably restrained at first, but as soon as Unknown begins injecting car chases and assassins into the mix, the LFE channel leans back, digs in its heels and lets out a mighty yawp. The rear speakers follow suit, creating believable but subdued environments as Dr. Harris searches for the truth, then unleashing hell as his life collapses around him. Directional effects and cross-channels pans are smooth and precise, dynamics are invigorating and fidelity is outstanding. Through it all, dialogue remains crystal clear, perfectly prioritized and realistically grounded in the tone and tenor of Harris' precarious Berlin excursions. No matter what trouble he finds himself in, no matter how chaotic the circumstances become, nary a line or a word fall by the wayside. If anything, John Ottman and Alexander Rudd's driving score is crowded out of the soundscape on a few, largely negligible occasions. That said, any related issues most certainly trace back to the film's original sound design, not Warner's lossless efforts. Unknown didn't quite do it for me, but its AV presentation worked wonders.
Unknown Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Unknown doesn't offer much, just two brief featurettes. The first, "Liam Neeson: Known Action Hero" (HD, 5 minutes), is little more than a flashy, barebones EPK, while the second, "Unknown: What is Known?" (HD, 4 minutes), is... well, little more than a flashy, barebones EPK.
Unknown Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Unknown isn't the kind of film many people fall in love with. It's fun, twisty and entertaining, sure. But it's also fairly forgettable; another convoluted genre pic bolstered by terrific performances. Sadly, plot holes, leaps in logic and unhinged implausibility prevents it from being much more. Luckily, Warner's Blu-ray release is a different matter altogether. While its supplemental package is a near-barebones bore, its AV presentation is a near-perfect stunner worthy of its thriller roots. Personally, I'd still avoid the risk and start with a rental. That said, those who purchase Unknown will find their money well spent... at least insofar as the film's AV presentation is concerned.
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• This Week on Blu-ray - June 21-27 - June 21, 2011
Marketing can make or break a file, and in some cases, change the way a film is initially perceived. Such is the case with today's Blu-ray release of The Adjustment Bureau, where a post-Inception landscape forced marketers to focus on the entire "reality isn't ...
• Unknown Blu-ray Announced - May 2, 2011
On June 21, Warner Home Video will release a Blu-ray combo pack of Jaume Collet-Serra's high-octaine action drama Unknown (2011), starring Liam Neeson (Seraphim Falls, Chloe), Diane Kruger (National Treasure, Inglourious Basterds), Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire, ...
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