2006 Movie Unknown Will Keep You Guessing
2006 Movie Unknown Will Keep You Guessing - because even after the movie ends, we still aren't sure exactly what happened. IMDB
Acting
Screenplay
Mindjobness
Editing
4.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)

Who knew that Jim Caviezel, Greg Kinnear, Bridget Moynahan, Joe Pantoliano, Jeremy Sisto, and Barry Pepper could all feature in a closed box mindjob twister and it would slip completely under my radar? How is that even a thing? But, thanks to DeKev, with another nice little recommendation in the movie recommendation widget, we are all the smarter.

The movie, Unknown, is sort of like an older school version of Free Fire, but better in the mindjob category. Why? Because it just keeps chucking twists at the viewer over and over again. And that is even after the general twistiness of the movie finishes and the real twists begin. (How the heck have I never heard of this movie before?)

If you haven’t seen it, the basic plot is simple…but after that, all bets are off. So, the movie starts by 5 men waking up in a warehouse, completely locked in, and unable to get out. The best part? All five of them have zero idea as to who they might be and how they got here. But the situations that they wake up in seems to indicate that they may not like each other much. It’s as if they passed out mid-fight (spoiler: they did.) but now, here they are, with no idea how to get out, and no idea what to do with these other men. Kill them? Work with them?

So the big problem for you guys though is going to be finding it. Right now, it looks like you can have Netflix ship you a DVD to your house. (I kid you not, I didn’t know that was still a thing.) And Amazon will sell you the DVD. Google Play store doesn’t have it either!?!? Maybe you’d have better luck going to those vats of movies in Walmart and just rummaging through the Ace Ventura copies until you happen upon it. I almost feel badly recommending a movie that is so difficult to find – but I have faith in your collective genius. Here, have a trailer, then head off on your treasure hunt… and when you return, do regale us in your feats of bravery and daring towards finding this film in the wild.

Unknown Movie Deep Dive

First problem, is that we need to figure out what to call the main characters of the movie. Because they don’t know who they are, and we don’t know who they are, it’s a little tricky to point out exactly who I am talking about from moment to moment. Out on IMDb, they name the characters thusly: Jim Caviezel – “Jean Jacket,” Greg Kinnear – “Broken Nose,” Joe Pantoliano – “Bound Man,” Barry Pepper – “Rancher Shirt,” Jeremy Sisto – “Handcuffed Man.” So, with that in mind, why don’t we just refer to them by their actor’s name. And then as things actually start clarifying, we’ll start adopting their real names. OK? Brilliant. You guys just are so accommodating. It’s touching. Really.

Like I said, the movie kicks off with these five guys, with no memories of who they are or why they are locked in this warehouse building. (I thought seriously about researching all the gas agents that are strong enough to cause amnesia in a warehouse sized space – and decided to just accept the McGuffin for once and go for the ride. If anyone has any guesses as to the gas, I’d love to hear about it. Seems awfully flimsy to me.) The first thirty or forty minutes we mainly watch as the five guys (lovely hamburger joint) wake and attempt to get out of the locked down warehouse. We also watch as Eliza Coles brings money to a drop location, for some unknown reason, and then the money disappearing.

But I’ll fill you into what is really happening here. Eliza Coles’ husband, and his colleague have been kidnapped. The kidnappers required a duffle bag full of money, which they got away with by stealing the money from the false bottom in the locker. The police track the bag for a while – but ultimately lose the perpetrators. OK? That’s the basic gist – which, is actually quite hard to piece together, even after the movie is over.

Who is Who in the Movie Unknown?

This, is the question of the entire movie. The cleverness to this premise is, that these five individuals absolutely know for sure that not everyone is friendly here. They even have guessed by the ropes, the guns and the locked doors, that most of the people in this warehouse might actually be horrible people. But who’s who? Well, the truth layers are given to us in three distinct onion peelings. Each one very different than the previous. And each one extremely important to the plot.

Layer One – Jim Caviezel the Thug

As everyone is beginning to remember more and more about who is who, Jim realizes he was one of the gang members. Worse, it was his idea to kidnap Coles for the ransom money. So, when the gang members get back, they order Caviezel (or Woz, as they call him) to kill Coles (Barry Pepper) and Greg Kinnear. Those two had been certain that they could trust Caviezel, but when push came to shove, Caviezel remembered who he was, and took the two guys out to the pit that had been dug for their cemetery plot.

Layer Two – Jim Caviezel the Cop

Wait, what?!? Caviezel’s a cop? We just heard him shoot Coles and Kinnear. He bought into the memory whole hog! But when the head of the gang (played by Peter Stormare) that had kidnapped Coles came out to check on Caviezel, he says, “Hey, I think we have a cop among us.” Oh damn! The memory of him being the bad guy was false! He was an undercover cop. How is this possible? But, shhh, don’t worry too much, because we learn just two minutes later that Coles and Mr. Kinnear, are anything but dead. A fight breaks out, and Greg Kinnear is shot dead. Coles and Caviezel survive, and Caviezel puts his dead daughter, and divorced wife to rest by lighting the dead thugs on fire and tossing his lighter into the pit.

Layer Three – Jim Caviezel the Embezzling Murderer

And when all is said and done, and the cops finally arrive, they come to pick up the pieces of the horribly upside down kidnapping recovery mission. They are glad to have their undercover cop back. And they are able to reunite Coles to his wife, Eliza. And upon seeing Eliza Coles, Caviezel – Jean Jacket – undercover cop, whatever you want to call him – has a billion memories flood back into his brain.

Basically, the gist of the memories were that Eliza had marked him, a cop, as the perfect person to swindle out of millions through a kidnapping ploy. A kidnapping, that would be all the better if it resulted in the death of Mr. Coles. His death would allow the new couple to live happily ever after with all their new found dough. But there’s more.

The Final Twist of Unknown

Throughout the movie we are presented with a conundrum, over and over again, a simple one. What if I am a bad guy? What do I do then? Do I remain with my assumed allegiances? Or do I break with those accreted piles of choices that got me to that point, and make the right decision?

Notice Joe Pantoliano – the bound man – and the choices that he had to make. As the lock in is ending, the five men, showing a rare cohesive impetus, are all set to attack the men coming through the door. Regardless of sides, they all band together to fight this unknown threat. But just as the door opens, Pantoliano remembers that he was in this crew. He’s one of the bad guys. So he thinks. And he thinks. And he doesn’t let the barrel go that is supposed to swing and crush the men walking in the door. He’s weighing his options. He’s trying to figure out what he ought to do. And ultimately he decides pivot the barrel, and swing it Greg Kinnear instead.

All five of these men (well, four really, because one dies early) have to grapple with their memories, and their choices as they remember them. And here, at the end of the movie, is Jim Caviezel – with the most choices to make. First he thinks he’s a bad guy, and almost kills Cole. Decides against this, sort of inherently knowing this can’t exactly be right? Or maybe he just chooses against murder. Then, when he learns he’s an undercover cop, he is vindicated in this choice. But then when he sees Eliza Coles, and he realizes this was all her scheme to kill her husband and take him for millions in insurance money, he really has a choice on his hands. And as the movie is ending, he turns the money over to the police. Then, as he is watching Eliza hug her husband, while staring squarely at him, he needs to decide whether or not to turn her in. And then the credits roll.

The final twist of Unknown is actually, literally, unknown. Does Caviezel’s character rat Eliza out, or does he let her skate? She single-handedly begin this chain of events, all with a mind towards getting the money, and being free from her husband. Everything else has snapped back into its correct place, save for this one detail, the most important detail, and the credits keep us from learning what his final choice will be. You can see the look on Eliza’s face – pleading with him not to tell.

After Caviezel hands over the cash, Coles wants to introduce Eliza to him. But, that is complicated, because Eliza and Mr. Caviezel have already met. And we see that meeting, at the bar, where she shows a ton of leg, as she is obviously seducing him into her plan.

So the question for you is, does he tell his police captain about her plot? Or not? Personally, I believe he threw her completely under the bus. And it’s not because he sees through her plan. And it’s not because it was an obvious ploy. But because this movie is all about being given a second chance, and doing the right thing with that chance. I don’t know, what do you think he did at the very end of the movie?

Edited by, CY

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10 Responses

  1. ARM

    Augh!!
    Now I have to try to find this in the bargain bin. I think I watched it years ago on Prime but now I want to see it again…

    Curses!

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      I happened to see a full version just hit youtube a few hours ago. I’m sure it won’t last long. And obviously, after watching through said method, you probably ought to paypal the production company $5, or something. But whatever, that’s between you and God. Personally think that distribution companies have a moral obligation to keep their movies available in some form or another. Just in case some weird website like mine starts hyping it all of a sudden. Just sayin.

      Reply
  2. deKev

    I think if giving up Eliza means outing himself as co-conspirator, I’d like to think Caviezel will most likely choose to stay mum, because from what I can tell, he is most comfortable with being the undercover cop, a sort of halfway redemption for him then. Kinda reminded me of Infernal Affairs, the great Hong Kong movie about moles from both sides of the law, from which Scorsese’s The Departed is based: it’s just way better to be an outwardly “good” person (the cop) than an outwardly “bad” one (the gangster), even if it means doing all kinds of nefarious deeds to stay “good”.

    This movie has me thinking quite a bit on a person’s moral compass. Is it defined and influenced by past deeds/memory, character traits, current situational needs or something else? So when you’ve lost your memory, meaning you get the chance to start with a clean slate, do you choose to be good or bad from then on?

    Of the 5 with memory loss, Caviezel and Pepper appear to be the most outwardly righteous and honourable, while Pantoliano is at the other end, with Kinnear and Sisto somewhere in the middle. Other than Pantoliano, who is ostensibly a lowlife character and who also chooses to be “bad” again as soon as his memory returns, Kinnear stands out for me because he is distrustful, aggressive and conspiratorial against the de facto leader, Caviezel. And yet when it really matters, he is someone who can be depended on to act righteously and conscientiously.

    So pardon me if I ask again, what determines or motivates a person’s moral behavior?

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Good questions. I didn’t dive down one layer deeper, though I could have. Think about this for a second. You come to my house and murder my family. And then hit your head on the way out, causing total amnesia. And as you begin to recover you decide, before learning of your evil past, you are going to do right, and not be the horrible person you were before your traumatic head injury.

      The question is this… is the horror of your actions wiped away? For you maybe. For the viewer, maybe. But not for me. Right? So here is the complexity of it… in the vantage of a movie, we see Caviezel as the protagonist, and as the good guy. And so we assume that he is good. That he hasn’t done anything wrong. Otherwise he could not be our protagonist. He would be disqualified. (Thus the brilliance of cinema’s simple view on morality.) But when we learn later, that not only is he not good, but he also got a number of people killed while in the service of a woman who was attempting to have her husband murdered?!?!?

      It metaphorically gives one the opportunity to blank slate and to start over. To not do the wrong thing over again. To do the right thing. Correct? But it doesn’t clear the slate. The amnesia is just a metaphor… it isn’t a literal wiping away of the sins. Right? So now, to your question, “What determines, or motivates a person’s moral behavior?” Everyone is going to answer this question differently. But you asked me. And so I will give you my answer. I personally believe that truth (Big T truth as I like to call it) only comes from God. And this moral code that we have written into our consciouses (don’t come to my house and shoot my family and then get amnesia… because that is really really rude.) is reflective our need and desire to connect with God.

      Now, if you abhor the idea of being “subject” to a supreme being that made everything… you are going to take umbrage at this idea of obeying these moral prefects. But if you want nothing more than to spend eternity with him, well then, you are probably going to want to do the right thing. To avoid murdering a married woman’s husband for ransom and insurance money. But that is the funny thing. It’s not generally a murder thing. Or an insurance scam thing. It’s that cut that guy off in traffic thing. It’s the murder them with your mind’s eye thing. It’s the sleep with your neighbor’s wife… in your mind thing. Right?

      So yeah, this concept and idea has been fueling theological and philosophical books for millennia. My little comment here can’t do it justice. But in my opinion, I believe all definitions of motivation to good and to bad, come from one’s position in relationship to God. And, even if I did screw up, and though I love God with all my heart… I choose to follow the siren in the bar, what is my heart’s condition after I realize what I have done?!? What do I do then? In the Bible there are two Jewish Kings that signify this very well. King Saul, when caught in a lie, kept on lying, and downward spiraled. But David, when caught having sex with Bathsheeba, his friend’s wife, and also murdering that friend… what was his response? It was contrition. David begged for forgiveness. So, like this movie, it isn’t exactly what we do in this life, but what we do once we realize what we’ve done is wrong. Right? So, do I turn in the chick, and myself, and admit to my enormous screw up? Or do I play it off like it didn’t happen? That is the ultimate difference here. But again, that’s just how I think… that’s where I think morality comes from.

      Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Nice! Now, start a lending library where people can ask you to mail it to them for the weekend here in the comments and we’ll all be set!

      Reply
  3. deKev

    @Taylor, appreciate your discourse on morality, who knew thriller movies could be so philosophically stimulating, eh? ☺

    Reply
  4. Lisa

    I saw this movie years ago and totally forgot about it until reading this blog entry to refresh my memory. Talk about twists galore! This is a really fun film. It’s interesting how 13 or so years later, we mostly don’t hear much from these actors anymore and they were all really good in this film.

    Reply
  5. Shelby

    love this movie – time for a re-watch! luckily i bought it on dvd years ago. thanks for reminding us that this gem exists!

    Reply

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