Unknown (UK - BD RB)
Marcus is pretty sure he's that reviewer from DVDActive but now he's not sure...
Dr Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and his wife Liz (January Jones) arrive in Berlin for a bio-technology summit. Leaving Liz to head back to the airport to retrieve his mislaid briefcase, Martin winds up in a car accident and wakes up in the hospital.
Convincing the doctor to let him leave the hospital despite his head trauma, Martin makes his way back to the hotel and it is here that his life literally falls apart. Not only do the staff of the hotel not believe that he is who he says he is but his wife acts as if she’s never met him. To make matters worse another man (Aidan Quinn) claims to be Dr. Martin Harris with exactly the same life story and reason to be in Berlin. Now with his life in pieces and seemingly not his own,
Liam Neeson: Action Hero! Following the surprise hit Taken was always going to be a tough one for Neeson. With a role that many deemed outside his comfort zone (despite being a Jedi, a superhero and a DC villain previously??) his next proper action flick (let’s ignore the A-Team – that was more like he’d gone to a fancy dress party as Hannibal rather than being in an action movie) really had to deliver to stabilise his new on screen persona. Well despite being nothing all that special Unknown proves to be a great vehicle to carry on the Lian Neeson: Action Hero phase in Neeson's career and he seems pretty comfortable doing it now.
I think the clever thing here is that he’s picking movies that give those sick of the overkill of CG heavy super action flicks an old school antidote of sorts. Nothing in either Taken or Unknown is all that flashy, sure Unknown has its car chases, its explosions and a bit of fighting but none of it is all really out to show off and that’s a good thing. Unknown opts for slow burning thriller with some short but sweet action sequences instead and it feels quite refreshing. Martin Harris is out to kick ass, shoot guns and blow shit up, he’s out to get his life back (and when he does, then he kicks ass—quite convincingly).
Really Unknown is doing exactly what the straight to DVD action films are doing but to a larger audience. Neeson is doing the movies Van Damme, Segal and to a degree Jason Statham are doing, but he’s somehow more convincing a character within the mayhem (probably because it’s not all about making the star look uber cool) and even though he’s doing his odd Irish/American accent that's all his own (layered with a whole lot of Qui-Gonn this time out—he really does sound like him all the way through here) this still feels like a strong performance from a guy who is well regarded for his acting. It’s a fine line Neeson is treading but he’s treading it very well.
Talking about what Unknown is about seems a bit mean considering how heavy this movie relies on mystery so I’ll try to be as broad as I can. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (recently confirmed as directing the live action Akira—let’s see how far they get before it falls apart this time, shall we?) weaves together quite a few other bigger action movies. There are bits of Bourne, and the Mission Impossibles all about the movie but Unknown still creates its own thriller elements to have its own identity.
I wouldn’t say there was anything special about the story and the “twist” is nowhere near as aloof as the extras imply but everything is satisfying enough and despite a fairly routine third act, Neeson makes another character that you get behind to win and really that’s always a massive part of an action thriller’s success. For me I wouldn’t say it was as good as Taken as I found Taken to be a whole lot more exciting in its retroawesomeness and that speech on the phone “I will find you and I will kill you” is still ridiculously cool but that said, Unknown still kept me intrigued for its two hour runtime, I liked where the story went, I liked Liam Neeson: Action Hero in the last act a whole lot and even though I’ll forget the specifics fairly quickly I think, this was a whole lot of fun while it lasted.
Well there’s pretty much nothing wrong with the transfer here. It’s incredibly sharp and detailed, black levels make everything look stylish and “cool” and the turquoise-y colour to the majority of the movie give everything quite a slick look. The night scenes mix it up with a few more golds and greens and a bit of nightclub blown out red to keep that Joel Silver produced action feel strong and really no matter the lighting, time of day or weather, Unknown looks fantastic.
Stuff like textures for clothing and the wrinkles on Neeson’s face are all very well defined, the image is grain free, skin tones are pretty natural despite the overall blue-ness of everything and really all the positive things you can name with a good high definition transfer are all here to be gushed over. This is a great transfer even if cinematically the movie is a little dull for my tastes (not a good sign for Jaume Collet-Serra reported next movie, Akira. We'll see I guess).
Once again the presentation here is top notch. From the car crash near the beginning of the film, the whole DTS-HD Master Audio track rocks—strong bass, a strong score, some crisp dialogue and a punchy playful approach to the atmospherics. The dynamics of the track are also a show off element, cars zip by the screen with great effect, action sequences step everything up a notch and the explosions literally boom! On top of that everything is driven along with the score whether through tension or more exciting action elements. It’s a great track and makes the movie all the more exciting because of it.
The disc opens with trailers for The Losers, The Tourist, Source Code and Animal Kingdom and then we hit the movie specific stuff. 'Unknown: The Story' (04:04 HD) is a fluffy fast paced overview of the movie and the ‘Behind the Scenes’ (04:23 HD) is more of the same bigging up of the movie.
‘Liam Neeson: Known Action Hero’ (04:42 HD) looks more at Neeson and has the cast and crew hyping him up in his new action hero guise and it’s not until the interviews that things start getting a little meatier. The Liam Neeson interview (08:42 SD) is okay but feels too much like he’s a little too prepared to continuously recap us about the movie's specifics (and he always feels like he’s about to nod off). This continues through Diane Kruger, January Jones, director Jaume Collet-Serra, and producers Joel Silver and Leonard Goldberg with very little talked about beyond sound bites about how “good the script was” and how everyone "wanted to work with Liam". Press Junket sort of stuff and nothing all that interesting really. Last up is the trailer (01:08 HD) and this whole set of features feels like I’ve just watched a TV special about the movie rather than a disc's worth of extras.
Well the audio and video departments work absolute wonders but the throw away extras let the release down somewhat so it's lucky Unknown proves to be solid old school action movie that fans of Liam Neeson: Action Hero should enjoy even if the routine thriller at the core of this movie will be forgotten not long after seeing it.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 18th July 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-MD Master Audio 5.1 English, LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Extras: Featurettes, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, January Jones, Diane Kruger
Genre: Mystery and Thriller
Length: 113 minutes
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