Osage Reviews...UNKNOWN (Blu-ray; Warner Bros./Dark Castle) - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 2 Old 06-26-11, 08:29 PM Thread Starter
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Osage Reviews...UNKNOWN (Blu-ray; Warner Bros./Dark Castle)

Releasing Studio: Warner Bros.
Disc/Transfer Specifications: 1080p 2.40:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Rating: PG-13
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring Cast: Liam Neeson, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Frank Langella


Another one I really wanted to see in theaters, but didn’t get to. From the outside looking in, Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra’s Unknown seemed to be penned from the same folks that did the Liam Neeson assassin thriller Taken, which explosively portrayed Neeson as an buttkicking action star, far beyond his ninja abilities in Batman Begins. In that particular film, Neeson’s ex-CIA operative character has to rescue his daughter from the clutches of sex trafficking rings in Paris, utilizing all his training and hand to hand combat techniques learned as an assassin/spy/what have you. Taken was a superbly crafted thriller, and now what a French filmmaker did to that picture, a Spaniard does to Unknown. Honestly, again, I was expecting a bit more from this, as Collet-Serra seems to take forever to tell the story and build the tension; however, slow moving elements aside, the end surprise twist you’ll never see coming – even though it’s been done before. Further, Unknown seemed to be a rolling advertisement for Mercedes-Benz, as nearly every single vehicle depicted in the streets of Germany is of the three-pointed star variety – don’t get me wrong, I realize in Germany, the Benzes are the Chryslers and Fords of the U.S., and livery drivers there treat them like they’re Corollas, but in this film, the product placement for Mercedes was beyond excessive and just plain obvious. I mean, every car on the road in the film is a Benz – whether it’s a taxi, SUV or delivery truck.

Neeson’s botanist/doctor character travels to Germany with his beautiful blonde wife (January Jones) to attend a conference, and once they arrive at their hotel, Neeson discovers he forgot his briefcase at the airport. He hails another cab to return to the airport, leaving the wife behind at the hotel’s check-in desk but attempting to call her on route in the taxi. The driver of the Mercedes E Class attempts to avoid being struck by falling debris from a truck in front of them, and in so doing, causes the car to fly off a bridge and into the water below. Neeson strikes his head in the accident as the car sinks below the surface of the water, knocking him unconscious, but the female cab driver makes her way out of the driver’s seat and manages to pull Neeson out of the sinking car, in time for emergency workers to revive him. He awakens in a hospital, seemingly after being in a coma for three or four days, but his attending doctor nor any hospital staff know where his wife is or what happened to her. Eventually remembering that he left her at the hotel before the conference, Neeson leaves the hospital, against the doctor’s orders, and returns to the hotel to find the wife (does it not occur to him that she hasn’t been looking for him all this time, being her husband?).

Neeson begins to have run-ins with the hotel’s security staff, as they demand identification from him, but he can provide none, as his passport and all ID have been lost. He makes wild claims in the lobby about being a certain recognized doctor who was supposed to attend the conference at the hotel, desperately trying to get the security staff and management to let him in – suddenly, he identifies his blonde wife inside the conference hall, in a dark green dress, and manages to get inside to confront her. The problem is, she is claiming she has no idea who Neeson is, nor what he wants – to her, this isn’t her husband standing there three days out of a coma, but instead introduces Aidan Quinn’s character has her husband, sharing the exact same name as Neeson’s character. Neeson believes this to be some kind of game the wife is playing with him, but is soon escorted out of the conference room for causing a disturbance and continuing to claim he’s a certain doctor and that’s his blonde wife – and we get the feeling Unknown is going down that road of films dealing with amnesia and lost identity. But all is not what it seems.

Neeson spends the remainder of the film attempting to figure out why no one is recognizing him as the doctor he (thinks) he is, or why the wife is not recognizing him at all. At one point, he believes the trauma of the accident has done something to his brain, making him forget his real identity, but he eventually begins to put pieces of a puzzle together as various characters are introduced. He tracks the location of the female taxi driver who saved him from the crash that day, working in a restaurant and living in a rundown apartment; meanwhile, Neeson takes notice of certain people chasing and pursuing him, even at one point drugging him at the hospital, fueling his thoughts that this was a planned conspiracy of some kind with the purpose of eliminating his identity. The film is slow moving until these parts, ultimately taking away from its action-thriller-esque roots, but you will find yourself wondering just what in the name of Scooby Doo's poo is going on and desperate to know who or what is behind all this…and why.

Neeson ends up, on advice of the taxi driver, reaching out to a private eye in Germany who helps him in finding out what is going on around him – he desperately explains to this guy that his wife is acting like she doesn’t know who he is and that other strange occurrences have taken place since he has been out of the coma…but he’s dead set on claiming he is definitely this doctor he claims to be. The investigator begins to explore Neeson’s case, but again – things are not what they seem to be. Why does his wife act like she doesn’t know him? Who is Aidan Quinn’s character in this whole thing, and why is he now acting like her husband, even taking Neeson’s character’s name? Why did the taxi driver save his life in the accident – and should he have really drowned? Was it the coma and trauma of the accident that has him so confused and possibly imagining this identity as a botanist…or is he truly this guy but everyone else around him has changed and is in on some plot? Things get even stranger when Frank Langella’s character shows up in Germany as a friend of Neeson’s, or so he says, and confronts the investigator about what has been happening to Neeson. Who is Langella really? What does he have to do with all these events? Why was he the last one seen with the investigator before he sips a drink laced with cyanide, and drops dead right in front of Langella? There’s no way I’m giving up the essence and secrets behind Unknown – you’ll have to rent it and find out!


Interestingly and curiously, Warner Bros. collaborated with their horror subdivision, Dark Castle Productions, for the release of Unknown; normally, Dark Castle is the division responsible for coming up with remakes of old horror classics, such as 1999 retelling of the Vincent Price chiller House on Haunted Hill and even Ghost Ship. No matter, the 1080p rendering of Unknown on Blu-ray looked solid, stable and effectively right given the subject matter – the color temperature of the film itself was bathed in cool, steely blues and it’s clear that’s the definite tone of the look, but at any rate, in no particular fashion does the transfer stand out in any way. Clothing details were sharp and called attention to themselves, while the snowy German environments exhibited lifelike characteristics, yet this wasn’t a title that really wowed me in terms of high definition visuals; this was more than likely due to photographic elements and decisions, and it was befitting of an espionage/pseuedo-assasin thriller like this, but way too many times, the transfer slipped into soft, DVD-like quality areas, notably in darker sequences. Fine film grain – but not distracting – punctuated the backgrounds of certain scenes and shots, and there were brief moments of black crush.


Again, Unknown was an example of a ho-hum Master Audio soundtrack – for some reason, the mix here didn’t bowl me over, even during the chase sequences through the streets of Germany as Leeson’s character and the female taxi driver are on the run from unknown assassins. The mix threw ambient cues such as cars’ tires screeching into the surrounds appropriately, but the track didn’t by any means hit me over the head with searing dynamics or head-snapping effectiveness. Further, there was the issue, once more, of the dialogue requiring a hike in master volume to hear clearly – a trait becoming all too familiar with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks as of late – and the entire track just wasn’t that overtly satisfying. Now, this very well may have been a byproduct of the filmmakers’ wishes and creative decisions – and that’s what I’m guessing it actually most likely was – but I expected a bit more from this genre of film in terms of sound.

Explosions were rendered with appropriate amounts of LFE support – but nothing that would blow your windows out as the bass did, on, say, Iron Man 2. A sequence towards the end of the film in which a hotel suite explodes from a bomb was accompanied by whacks and wallops of LFE which rumbled quite nicely, but, again, honestly I expected a touch more.


I had slightly higher hopes for Unknown – as Liam Neeson fan, I believe he definitely did a noteworthy job of portraying his confused, exhausted botanist character effectively enough, as he races through Germany avoiding assassins and desperately tries to figure out why no one recognizes him for who he is. The problem comes in the form of the film’s pacing and writing; it takes a long time for anything to pick up or develop, and this ultimately makes the viewer lose a bit of attention before the action really heats up. But if you wait it out until the end, you’ll be treated with a wild plot twist that includes – my only plot spoiler hint – Neeson’s character getting some of his Taken character’s buttkicking mojo back, and it makes for a very interesting latter half of the film. I’ll leave that for you all to discover after watching Unknown.

A more than decent rental. As for a purchase – I don’t think it is purchase material, but that’s just me; I can’t see, once you are exposed to the plot twist, taking this off the shelf to rewatch again and again as it will lose something being that you know the outcome.

But please – let me know what you all think of the film if you get a chance to see it, or have seen it, so we can discuss Unknown!
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post #2 of 2 Old 06-26-11, 08:53 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2010
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Re: Osage Reviews...UNKNOWN (Blu-ray; Warner Bros./Dark Castle)

Slight tweaks done to body of review.
Osage_Winter is offline  


bluray , bros or dark , castle , osage , reviewsunknown , warner

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