Unknown (2006)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Nov 1, 2006 (USA)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Simon Brand's Unknown is the same type of thriller as the Saw and Cube movies: a group of people wake up imprisoned in a location unfamiliar to them (in this case, a warehouse), unable to remember how they got there (or in this case, who they are), and find themselves thrust into mortal danger. Where Unknown separates itself from these films is that there are remnants of a power dynamic between them -- some are freed, some handcuffed, and one is bleeding to death. Yet this alone is not enough to help figure out who's righteous and who's corrupt. Robbed of their previous motives, and even their personalities, they're left with only their essential bedrock morality to navigate this challenge, sensing that any trust they build could crumble the moment their memory returns. The thing is, it's impossible to know who's telling the truth about still being in the dark -- and who might be manipulating the situation for his own gain, or to hide his culpability from the others. Unknown is an effective frame story with a delicious setup, but it misses an opportunity to be more clever. Screenwriter Matt Waynee gets down the shifting loyalties of a group of people trying to suss each other out under dire circumstances, and the all-star cast gives a game effort. But the more the secrets reveal themselves, the more pedestrian the details feel. And where Waynee's script isn't as competent is the way it eventually assigns roles to the unnamed ensemble. By the time the audience is supposed to know who's who, there's still some amount of confusion because Waynee hasn't skillfully handled the reveal. Unknown is not unmemorable, but the filmmakers definitely could have milked some more conundrums and existential dilemmas out of the concept.