UNKNOWN is a tidy thriller with a unique premise: in a locked
garage-like building, five men begin to awaken after being unconscious.
One is tied to a chair, one is handcuffed to a railing and hanging, one
has a broken nose and the other two appear unhurt. The twist is that
they are all suffering from temporary amnesia. It's clear that something
went down in the place -- there are signs of a struggle and at least
two other chairs where people were tied up. So the men are forced
to piece together what happened, making leaps of faith and trust.

Eventually, the audience learns that there has been a kidnapping,
as we watch as the wife of one of the men delivers the ransom money
while under the watchful eye of the police. But to reveal anything further
would be criminal as it would violate an audience member's appreciation
for the movie.

The clever screenplay was written by Matthew Waynee in his
feature debut. It's a smart premise and the author throws in a few twists.
(In all honesty, I had figured out one of the major plot turns but it was
compounded in a manner I didn't quite expect.) While there may also
be a slightly schematic slant to the writing, Waynee has created fully-
drawn characters as evidenced by the cast the script attracted.

Director Simon Brand also makes his directing debut, and he
handles the material admirably. He ratchets up the tension when
required and navigates the tricky screenplay in a manner that keeps
things fairly straightforward for the audience to follow.

The cast all do quite well. The five principal actors -- James
Caveziel, Greg Kinnear, Barry Pepper, Jeremy Sisto and Joe Pantoliano --
each etch memorable characters, with Caveziel, Kinner and Pepper
faring better as they have the strongest material. (I kept wondering
if any other film has ever had two actors who have portrayed Jesus
in it? Caveziel was in
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST while Sisto starred
in a television miniseries.)

Even the smaller roles were filled with (mostly) strong actors,
with Clayne Crawford, Chris Mulkey and David Selby portraying policemen,
and Peter Stormare and Mark Boone Junior as suspects. Only Bridget
Moynihan came across as a weak link.

UNKNOWN works as a puzzle and it provides a fine ride for
audiences. It has audacity and invention and marks the emergence
of a couple of behind-the-scenes talents to watch.

        Rating:                B
        Running time:       98 mins.

                Viewed at Magno Review 2
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.