Sunday, July 15, 2012

One for the Queue: Unknown

A recent discussion with some friends inspired me to place this gem back at the top of my Netflix queue (since it isn't avail on iTunes). If you haven't ever seen it, you must. Seriously, you MUST. Trust me. 


First off, don't confuse this with the later film of the same name. You're looking for the 2006 film starring the always awesome James "Jim" Caviezel (Count of Monte Cristo, Person of Interest) along with Greg Kinnear, Joe Pantoliano, Barry Pepper and Jeremy Sisto. I'm going to have to keep this light on the deets or I'll give away the good stuff and this is one time you can't watch and know the ending. Spoils all the fun. 

We open with the ringing of a phone in an old warehouse. An old, currently out of use warehouse from the looks of things as the camera pans around (credits playing). The continued ringing stirs awake a man who sits up gasping (Caviezel). The man looks around and sees signs of a struggle including broken cell phones, a shovel. One man tied to a chair, another hanging handcuffed to a railing and a third passed out, blood pooling in the dirt floor under his head. No surprise that Denim Jacket is a tad freaked. He tries to find a door but it's looked. He goes back and checks on the other three guys (all still alive but out cold) having a second freak out when he realizes that Handcuff (Sisto) has been shot. Doesn't help much that his head is spinning like he just dropped some serious acid. Denim continues searching around, the shovel in hand, finding nothing. As he looks at himself in the bathroom mirror he realizes that, although he has a flashback of himself and a little girl and a second of men in ski masks, he has no clue who he or she is or who the men are. 

The phone rings again and Denim answers. The voice on the other end gives us a name "Brockman" (presumably his). We also get the name Coles but no clue who he is (but we can assume he's one of the three other men). The guy on the other end suggests the rest of 'them' will be back in a couple of hours when something is done, and doesn't care for the police being around (need any more hints that he's not a good guy). 

We cut to a woman, Mrs Coles, at a train station doing some kind of money drop. Her husband has been kidnapped and this is the ransom drop. The wife is freaking out because the money in her hands is all, she believes, that is keeping her husband alive. Once she lets go, anything can happen. Although the cop in the room says otherwise, the cut to a grave in the sand outside of the warehouse strongly suggests that she's right. It would appear that perhaps these men or at least 3 of them are kidnappers and one is a victim. Or perhaps all of them are and Coles is already dead. Perhaps Denim is Coles, perhaps he's a kidnapper. 

Denim's searching is interrupted by a scream from the main room. He runs back in to find Tied Up Guy (Pantoliano) awake and equally clueless about what happened. Denim is just about to untie the man when a fifth guy wakes up on the landing behind where Handcuff must have fallen over the railing. Black Shirt (Pepper) is also totally clueless about what happens but still suggests they not untie Tied Up. Eventually Handcuff and Broken Nose (Kinnear) wake up only to find that neither man remembers a thing, although originally Broken Nose claims to remember Denim breaking his nose. Meanwhile the money gets is taken out despite cops being every where leading to a hunt and chase following a tracker in the bag. 

Denim, Black Shirt and Broken Nose battle back and forth as they try to figure out what's going on. They discover several broken gas canisters assuming that whatever was inside must be what has wacked their brains. Things get dicey when Black Shirt and Broken Nose find out about the phone call, thinking Denim is a bad guy. A plan to call for help is axed by Black Shirt after he finds the body of a dead security guard. This leads Broken Nose back to a paper he spotted in the bathroom with the story of the kidnapping of two corporate big wigs at least 2 days before. Unknowing who is who the three mobile men work together to find a way out of the building. Behind their backs, Handcuff spots a gun under the shelves behind Tied Up only to have the other men spot him trying to get it and Denim ends up with the gun. 

Things take a turn for the worse when the phone rings and the voice on the other end says that 'it is done' and they have until sun down (2-3 hours). The three men keep trying to find a way out while Denim poses the question of whether they can do 'what must be done'. They also keep trying to sort out what happened to them and who is who. Alliances form and break as little bits of memory start coming back and each man tries to ensure that he gets out alive. I can't say anything else about what happens without ruining the fun. 

The filming is raw and dirty. The lighting is very dim and shadowy and appears to be done using mostly natural sources. The fight scenes have zero polish or panache and perfectly reflect the situation. They get hurt when they fall, they bleed and bruise. When bits of memory occur they are short, flash in the pan, sometimes only a voice just as one might expect in real life. The dialogue is concise, raw and thankfully is neither PG clean or dumping F bombs every second but a nice middle road. There's only one somewhat negative in the whole thing. And that's the other side of the story. It's barely touched and there's a part of me that thinks that perhaps the little bit we're given should have just been left out all together. Focus on these men and this place and how they act and react, particularly when things get closer to time running out. 

This is an excellent film powered by the performances of five great actors rather than fancy effects and flashy camera work. It's one of my top ten films and one of a handful of movies on my list of must see movies particularly for those that want to take up a serious study of filmmaking and script writing. 

Oh and for the trivia buffs, look closely during the money drop scene. One of the cops should look very familiar to those that follow Caviezel's work. No it's not Mr Finch but you're thinking the right way. 

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