Martin Harris is crazy. He’s been in an accident which slammed his head against the car window, landing him in a coma for four days. When he wakes up, his wife is with another man also named Martin Harris. It’s a moment of sheer confusion, director Jaume Collet-Serra twisting the camera and delivering awkward zooms to add to what appears to be hysteria on Harris’ part… or at least the real one.

It’s a bit of style in a film with little, the camerawork lifeless during exposition and the color palette vomit-inducing in the extreme. Unknown is also a little plodding, milking the confusion for as long as it can, scattering the hectic, energy-driven action scenes throughout the narrative.

Unknown’s action is spectacular though, proving the wait to be worthwhile. There’s a glorious, old fashioned car chase in which Harris (Liam Neeson) drives onto the sidewalk in reverse, passer bys leaping for cover. Cars smash into other, metal scrapes, and it’s all done practically. An apartment fist fight carries the same zest and aggressive appeal, smashing through walls during a toe-to-toe struggle.

There’s also the “trust no one” appeal, the scenario producing untrustworthy friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Whether on his feet or drugged by an assassin, Martin is constantly under surveillance by someone. Exactly who is not revealed until the “didn’t see that one coming” ending.

Whatever momentum the film has never feels capitalized on, the brawls and chase sequences always left hanging, partially because they’re fantastic and you want more. On the other half, the film usually dies while Martin scrambles to secure additional clues or information. It’s not that it’s slow, just put together in a way that causes it to vent the stored energy and adrenaline. The ending also comes across as unsatisfying, leaving Martin out there without much closure, answers to questions the film didn’t ask enough to leave his future in doubt. It’s an intermittently fun ride while getting there though. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

Unknown is unbearable to look at. It’s drenched in the gaudiest, dimmest, eye-searing teal based palette ever, as if Michael Bay went in and cranked up the teal-o-meter to its maximum. Actually, not even Bay would do something like this to his films. Hospital walls, pillow cases, and gowns? Teal. Airports? Teal. German locations? Teal. Apartments? Teal.

Oh don’t worry, the flesh tones aren’t safe, because instead of being tinted the familiar baked orange, they’re teal. They have a hint of pink from the desaturation, but there is an obvious teal push. A handful of scenes are able to escape this color oriented atrocity, scenes inside the investigators officer merely flat and pale, and a scene in the club replacing teal with yellow. It’s equally awful. Unknown doesn’t even have a “look.” Nothing is unique or a stand out. It’s just teal, and no, it cannot be overstated, because the person responsible certainly didn’t think it should be.

Aside from the color (TEAL!), Warner’s AVC encode is sufficient for the material at large. Grain grazes the image, resolved thanks to the hi-def codec, unable to produce any problems for people to complain about. Kudos Mr. Compressionist. That’s not to say the fine detail doesn’t struggle to find its hold, close-ups regularly smooth and a little filtered. Consistency is a problem here, all over the place in how often high-fidelity texture is allowed to play.

Black levels are a step above from where we were in the last paragraph, carrying some density and kick with only a handful of momentary lapses. The same can be said for the contrast, although not in the same positive light. While the teal-o-meter was ramping up, the contrast-o-meter was sliding ever downward. Unknown, despite the black levels, never captures depth or any purity in the whites. They’re simply teal. TEAL. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]

Boom. Crash. Smash. Such is the mantra for this DTS-HD effort, a boisterous, loud DTS-HD mix that milks its power for all its worth. Car chases pan in every direction, grinding metal introducing the low-end with oomph and force. Fights love producing exaggerated punches, and explosions? They never miss a chance to impress, especially a failed assassination attempt late.

The sound design is particularly lively, well, everywhere. As Neeson undergoes an MRI, the throbbing sound of the machine is elevated to not only deliver the effect of being inside, but establish the mindset during a flashback. Streets are lively, elevated trains a presence as well as sirens from passing authority or rescue vehicles. Panic from a bomb scare or crowded hospital takes up well established positions in the rears. It’s a fun listen, certainly more so than it is to look at. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]

Two featurettes here, dull and as boring as they come. Liam Neeson: Known Action Hero is a brief, five-minute time waster on, well, Neeson obviously. What’s Known is one of those pointless plot recap featurettes, treating viewers as if they didn’t just watch the movie. Together, you can waste about 10-minutes of your life. The disc isn’t even BD-Live compatible, not that there would be anything there anyway. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Extras]

3 thoughts on "Unknown Review"

  1. Kangaroo Be Stoned says:

    Teal has nothing to do with the quality of the transfer. It has to do with the cinematography.

    1. Anonymous says:

      In most cases, yes. I don’t doubt that here it was an intentionally chosen monochrome palette. It’s when such a decision begins to mar the viewing experience that is becomes an issue, and here, it destroys it.

      1. Kangaroo Be Stoned says:

        Ah. I understand. After you told me that one scene took place in a building that has just blown up is beyond ridiculous. And my favorite color is blue and its variants!

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