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Unknown - Blu-ray Movie Review

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Unknown - Movie Review

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2 stars

Unknown wants to be an edge-of-your-seat thriller.  It wants to recapture the glory of Taken and The Bourne Identity and even grabs at some basic Hitchcockian themes.  Unfortunately, it never lives up to what it wants to be and settles for a sort of ho-hum affair that can’t answer some basic questions concerning its plot.  While I can’t really go into the questions I have remaining because of the plot twist, I will suggest that Unknown – while perfectly harmless as a post-holiday afternoon snack – just doesn’t feel all that satisfying.

Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) has been in an automobile accident.  Pulled out by a cab driver (Diane Kruger), Harris is rushed to a Berlin hospital.  He’s lost part of his memory and has no proof of his identity either.  Over the course of four days, he starts to remember things.  Slowly.  He remembers his wife, Liz (January Jones), and remembers he is to give a speech for a crowd of scientists at a biotechnology conference.  Unexpectedly leaving the hospital, Harris returns to the hotel where he last saw his wife.  She – approached by him at a dinner party – doesn’t remember him and introduces him to her husband, Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn).  This is the prime set-up of Unknown and the rest of the film will see Neeson teaming up with Kruger and pulling in the talents of an aging private investigator named Jürgen (Bruno Ganz – who is simply wonderful in the role) in an effort to get his identity back.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, Unknown has a pretty alienated euro-vibe about it; very cold and distant.  Something director of photography Flavio Labiano certainly borrowed from Roman Polanski’s Frantic, filmed in 1988.  That blue-glossed atmosphere is great for Berlin and certainly a welcome addition to the rather bland action of the script.  Yet, atmosphere alone can’t keep this film all that interesting.  Neither can the acting.  Jones is an essential part of AMC’s success with Mad Men.  Her take on Betty Draper is gloriously smart and sexy, yet, here as the wife of Harris, Jones simply comes across as distant and clueless (much of which is betrayed be later happenings).  Her performance is much like what happened to Jon Hamm in The Town.  All cliché’s, no acting.

Neeson has become the action stud of the new millennium.  Taken gave us hope that Neeson could really deliver when Bruce Willis as John McClain couldn’t (the mutilated PG-13 Die Hard 3) and, once again, Neeson delivers in the film’s final moments – but it’s grossly without purpose (especially, after the big twist is released).  His sudden anger against Quinn doesn’t make any sense, so we have little to cheer when he says his “tough guy” lines and smacks the crap out of him.  With a film like Taken, the audience was right there with him.  Not so with Unknown.  I am only hammering home the comparison of the two movies because – and it’s obvious from the poster for the film (which has little to do with what happens in the film) – the makers of Unknown want to share in Taken’s unexpected success.

They won’t.

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{2jtab: Film Details}

Unknown - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sexual content.
Director
: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writer
: Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell
Cast:
Liam Neeson; Diane Kruger; January Jones; Aidan Quinn; Bruno Ganz
Genre
: Drama | Mystery | Thriller
Memorable Movie Quote:
"There is no Martin Harris. He doesn't exist."
Tagline:
Take back your life.
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Official Site:
unknownmovie.warnerbros.com
Release Date: February 18, 2011
Own it on Blu-ray:
June 21, 2011. Join the race for answers when Unknown arrives onto Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, for Download and On Demand on June 21st.

Plot Synopsis: Liam Neeson stars as Dr. Martin Harris, who awakens after a car accident in Berlin to discover that his wife (January Jones) suddenly doesn't recognize him and another man (Aidan Quinn) has assumed his identity.

Ignored by disbelieving authorities and hunted by mysterious assassins, he finds himself alone, tired, and on the run. Aided by an unlikely ally (Diane Kruger), Martin plunges headlong into a deadly mystery that will force him to question his sanity, his identity, and just how far he's willing to go to uncover the truth.

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{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Details}

Unknown - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
2 stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
3 Stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Unknown Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Combo Pack
Available on Blu-ray
- June 21, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: English (SDH), French, Portuguese, Spanish, none
Audio:
DTS-HD Master Audio English  5.1; Dolby Digital French; Dolby Digital Portuguese; Dolby Digital Spanish
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); DVD - digital copy
Packaging: Simple blu-ray package with cardboard slip-cover containing identical graphics.
Own it on Blu-ray: June 21, 2011. Join the race for answers when Unknown arrives onto Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, for Download and On Demand on June 21st.

Set in a Berlin rich with intricate architecture and colorful environment, Warner's hi-def treatment of this identity-swapping actioner is almost perfect with very little, if any, loss of detail in the transfer. A bit challenging for sure, considering the predominantly dark set-pieces that dominate most of the shots, but the contrasts remain strong throughout with almost no unintended grain, noise, or wall crawl. Colors pop, darkness swallows and the bluish tints of the exterior shots feel true to the icy environs of a mid-winter Berlin.

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 mix is where this transfer truly shines however, as the film is constantly crackling with explosives, car crashes, and completely immersive surrounds that really draw us into the action. John Ottman and Alexander Rudd's score takes the perfect position in the sound layering, never breaching the dialogue or Foley layers. There's a lot going on in this film yet the directionality and intensity of the dialogue always manages to keep up.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Would have liked a few more extras or featurettes. The two that are included are actually just promotional features that offer very little watching enjoyment. With such a high-quality transfer job, the package's lack of any meaningful extra material (including a commentary) is quite disappointing.

The Blu-ray Special Features are as follows:

  • Liam Neeson: Known Action Hero (04:30) - A breezy, but mostly fluffy, promotional featurette that feels like a Liam Neeson appreciation trailer. Features Cast and crew describing what it was like working with the 50-year-old action star. Neeson drops an interesting tidbit from his teenaged years as he was hoping to become a boxer. He mentions that a brief bout of amnesia following a severe blow to the head gave him a little insight in playing his character. There are also a few interesting behind-the-scenes-type action sequence outtakes that give a bit of insight into their complexity of the film's stunt work.
  • Unknown: What is Known (04:24) - This promotional piece contains numerous brief interviews and commentaries that are repeated from the first featurette. Director talking about working with Neeson; cast and crew going on and on about how much fun it was working with each other, etc.Nothing of any real substance or value.

The included DVD contains only the Unknown: What is Known (04:24) featurette.

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