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Unknown Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

Unknown (2011) movie poster Unknown

Theatrical Release: February 18, 2011 / Running Time: 113 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra / Writers: Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell (screenplay); Didier van Cuwelaert (novel Out of My Head)

Cast: Liam Neeson (Dr. Martin Harris), Diane Kruger (Gina), January Jones (Elizabeth Harris), Aidan Quinn (The Other Martin Harris), Bruno Ganz (Ernst Jürgen), Frank Langella (Rodney Cole), Sebastian Koch (Professor Leo Bressler), Oliver Schneider (Smith), Stipe Erceg (Jones), Rainer Bock (Herr Strauss), Mido Hamada (Prince Shada), Clint Dyer (Biko), Karl Markovics (Dr. Farge), Eva Löbau (Nurse Gretchen), Helen Wiebensohn (Laurel Bressler), Merle Wiebensohn (Lily Bressler)

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In over thirty years of acting, Liam Neeson has starred in many a major film, including Schindler's List, Star Wars: Episode I, Batman Begins, Clash of the Titans, and, vocally, The Chronicles of Narnia series. But the one movie whose success he seemed most personally responsible for is Taken, one of 2009's earliest and unlikeliest hits.
Undoubtedly, Neeson has since been offered action vehicles similar to that PG-13 kidnapping flick. And he seems to have accepted one in Unknown, which also casts him as an American abroad in Europe determined to fend off deadly opposition and restore his family to normalcy.

Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) and his wife Liz ("Mad Men"'s January Jones) arrive in Berlin the week of America's Thanksgiving for a biotech summit. Trying to retrieve a bag left behind at the airport, Martin is separated from his wife and gets into a serious car accident. Martin's life is saved by his cabbie Gina (Diane Kruger), but he still is hospitalized and comatose for days. When he gets up and out, his wife claims not to know him. And there is another man (Aidan Quinn) answering to his name, with the identification and knowledge to back it up.

Suffering amnesia from the trauma of his car accident and faced with convincing evidence to the contrary, Martin begins to doubt his version of the story, despite having vivid memories of life with Liz and his reason for being in Germany. With skilled individuals clearly out to end his life, Martin hires a local private investigator (Bruno Ganz) and reteams with jumpy Gina, an illegal Bosnian immigrant struggling to make ends meet, in hopes of making sense of the bizarre predicament he finds himself in with little money and no identification. Meanwhile, apparently in cahoots with his pursuers, Martin's old friend Rodney Cole (Frank Langella) flies over to him with questionable motives and some stunning revelations.

The world seems to have gone mad to Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson), who awakens from a brief coma to find himself "Unknown." Liz Harris (a vacant January Jones) claims to have never before seen her so-called husband.

Whereas Taken put Neeson on the trail of his daughter's abductors, having him go fisticuffs and deliver flesh wounds as needed, Unknown puts him on the other side of the chase, endangered and more keen on escaping to safety than returning fire and putting up a fight. That design is easier to make peace with and values mystery over violence.

While the intrigue may be somewhat standard issue, the framework is effective, with Martin's seemingly stolen identity dilemma being laid out in compelling fashion. With that achieved, the movie doesn't need to do much more to sustain interest. Bad guys pursuing an apparently good one is a tried and true formula, and the familiar forms the pursuit takes (automobiles, a nightclub walk) are suitably realized by Orphan director Jaume Collet-Serra.

For as long as it can, the film delays the confrontations that Taken renders inevitable. That may not delight those itching to be shown that lively hand-to-hand combat knows no age limit nowadays, an argument the nearly 60-year-old Neeson and over-50 Aidan Quinn eventually and convincingly make. But it ensures the film broad appeal and moderate magnetism as suspenseful atmosphere and unanswered questions tastefully claim the foreground. Though the final moments don't elevate this to genre mastery, what has preceded them is enjoyable enough to earn the film a passing grade, particularly when judged against winter's typically humdrum fare.

Life-saving, job-losing illegal Bosnian immigrant Gina (Diane Kruger) helps Martin in the face of grave danger. As the summoned familiar face, Rodney Cole (Frank Langella) is less comforting than he ought to be.

Despite comparable timing and an evocative tagline, Unknown did not recreate Taken's draw, grossing a bit less than half of that film's domestic tally. Still, a worldwide take of $130 million (half of that coming from foreign markets) on a production budget of $30 million is potent enough to ensure more action star offers head Neeson's way. In addition, this became the top grosser of Dark Castle Entertainment, a Warner Bros. division founded in 1999 that used to specialize in horror remakes. This film did benefit from more prestige and more screens than just about all of the Joel Silver company's twelve prior theatrical releases.

Four months after opening on the big screen, Unknown comes to DVD, Blu-ray, Digital Download, and, Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack today. We look at the lattermost here.

Unknown Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-Only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Two single-sided discs (BD-25 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP), standalone Blu-ray ($29.98 SRP),
and on Amazon Instant Video


It practically goes without saying midway into 2011 that a movie shot a little over a year ago for $30 million is going to look dandy on Blu-ray. And Unknown does, its 2.40:1 presentation delivering the sharpness and detail that people look to Blu-ray for, particularly on an energetic action flick such as this. There is really nothing in the way of visual imperfection and that adds to one's enjoyment of the film. I have nothing but praise for the default 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack as well. It delivers fine, consistent atmosphere throughout and ups the ante where appropriate without quite making you lunge for the remote to adjust the volume levels. A couple of set pieces would make apt selections for those always hungry for new home theater demo material.

The DVD offers less of a sensory feast than Blu-ray but not to the dramatic degree of some Warner combo packs. The comparable standard definition picture and sound is enough to satisfy most viewers.

"Known Action Hero" Liam Neeson chats about the film in one of two short Blu-ray bonus features. You can tell a major motion picture is being shot outside the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) in "'Unknown': What is Known?"


Even on Blu-ray, Unknown is joined by just two short bonus features,
each running 4½ minutes.

Entirely exclusive to the format is "Liam Neeson: Known Action Hero", a short allowing Neeson to talk about his experience and his co-stars and crew to sing his praises.

Available on all Blu-rays and the standalone DVD, "Unknown: What is Known?" is a run-of-the-mill EPK promotional making-of, comprised of enthusiastic sound bites (some repeated from the other piece), film clips, and B-roll footage. It's precisely what you'd expect.

As much as I love extras and resent the studios for now frequently depriving DVD customers of once standard inclusions, it's tough to be bothered by a light menu on such a movie. Sure, deleted scenes are always fun and it's odd that none are offered here. But beyond that, one can probably just consult Taken to learn about the making of a European Liam Neeson action thriller.

Customary for a Warner combo pack, the DVD here holds only the movie for standard definition playback on any DVD player and, via DVD-ROM, iTunes and Window Media digital copies for transferring to computers and portable devices.

The Blu-ray opens with a Blu-ray promo and a timely trailer for Green Lantern. The DVD offers no such things.

The Blu-ray menu offers the Warner standard of reformatted poster art with a score excerpt. Whether it represents an exception or a change, menu navigation isn't accompanied by the studio's usual BD sound effects. The Blu-ray gains points for resuming playback efficiently. The virtually identical DVD menu goes even one step further to scale back that format, allowing you to choose from English, French, and Spanish subtitles alongside "Play Movie" on the scored one and only screen and beginning playback after about a minute of inactivity.

The two discs claim opposite sides of an ecologically-cut Blu-ray case, which, as usual is joined by your digital copy code/instructions and topped by a cardboard slipcover identifying this as a combo pack.

Martin (Liam Neeson) and Gina (Diane Kruger) pursue the misplaced suitcase with which their crazy shared journey began.


Although its conclusion is unsatisfyingly routine, Unknown does enough right before that to qualify as an above-average action/mystery/suspense film. I enjoyed it quite a bit more than Taken, finding it easier to invest in this amnesiac puzzle than Taken's stream of brutal, improbable fight sequences. If you prefer thrills to story, you probably won't agree.

Warner's Blu-ray combo pack delivers a terrific feature presentation and a couple of truly welterweight extras. Neither of those facts is particularly remarkable, but they help make it clear that this is a movie you'd be fine owning on the one format you most prefer and that's only if you foresee yourself needing more than one viewing. A rental at least is advised.

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Reviewed June 21, 2011.

Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 Warner Bros. Pictures, Dark Castle Entertainment, Studio Babelsberg, Deutscher Filmförderfonds, Medienboard, and Warner Home Video.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.