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Film / Unknown (2006)

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Trust no one. Fear everything.

Unknown is a 2006 American crime-thriller film directed by Colombian filmmaker Simon Brand, starring Jim Caviezel, Greg Kinnear, Bridget Moynahan, Joe Pantoliano, Peter Stormare, and Barry Pepper. It's about a group of men apparently kidnapped and locked in a factory, with no memory of how they arrived there. Piecing together information around them, they realize that some were kidnapped and some were the kidnappers. They decide they must work together to figure out how to get away before the gang that captured them returns.

Not to be confused with the 2011 Liam Neeson thriller of the same name.


This film provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Warehouse: In the middle of nowhere.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Depending on what Jean Jacket chooses to do about the final revelation, the ending may turn out to be anything from a fairly decent Bittersweet to bleakest Downer.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: The fear of this trope drives the suspense. The five men find clues that some of them are criminals, but don't know which of their own number are the bad guys, and need to figure it out before the rest of the kidnapping gang returns.
  • Amnesiac Liar: Jean Jacket had memories of helping to abduct the targets. The criminals recognize him. Therefore, he's certain that he's one of the kidnappers. He was... except he's an undercover cop and his criminal partners unwittingly fooled him about his true identity.
  • An Aesop: You are not your past. Every new choice gives you the chance to be a better person.
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  • Applied Phlebotinum: The knock-out gas that causes temporary amnesia.
  • As You Know: The kidnapper boss mentions things to Jean Jacket that help the audience to better understand their relationship.
    Snakeskin Boots: You know, you been workin' for me for a couple months now, handling deals, collections, all kinda tough shit.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the final scene, after The Reveal of the final twist, Jean Jacket calls out the captain and it looks like he is about to confess the evil plan he cooked up with with Coles' wife, but then he only shows him the ransom in the case.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: The alleged execution of Broken Nose and Coles out by the grave. Jean Jacket points a gun at them and is about to pull the trigger. The scene cuts away to one of the kidnappers in the car as he hears two gunshots. It turns out, Jean Jacket tricked the baddies and both Broken Nose and Coles are still alive, ready to kick asses.
  • Behind the Black: Blatant example. When Jean Jacket and Coles are having a conversation in the bathroom, Bound Man's fists suddenly come flying for them into the frame. The men should have noticed him approach.
  • Bench Breaker: In a flashback we see how Coles frees himself from the chair he is tied to by breaking the chair's back.
  • Body in a Breadbox: The group finds the body of a Police officer stashed in a locker.
  • Cassandra Truth: It turned out that Broken Nose was actually absolutely right about the identity of himself, Coles and Jean Jacket (he was a kidnapper).
  • Closed Circle: The Abandoned Warehouse is a Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere, doors are shut tight, windows are made of bullet-proof glass, cell phones are destroyed and the landline connection is cut by Coles.note  Lampshaded by Coles: "Somebody's obviously gone to a lot of expense to secure this."
  • Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: The Bound Man recovers quickly once he's untied despite complaining about his "hands turning blue".
  • Cut Phone Lines: In the heat of the moment, Coles cuts the line to the yellow phone. The group later receives a call on the red phone but never tries to make an outbound call from it.
  • Criminal Amnesiac: Jean Jacket is actually an undercover cop ... Who set up the kidnapping in the first place.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: In flashbacks we learn that Jean Jacket first got divorced and then lost of his daughter which ruined his heart.
  • A Death in the Limelight: Handcuffed Man has all the attention of the crew when he tells his sappy story. The observant viewer knew at this point that his death was imminent.
  • Dig Your Own Grave: Broken Nose and Coles are doing it.
  • Distress Ball: The group constantly gets into fights over trivial things which hampers their efforts to get out of the building alive.
  • Easy Amnesia: Not horribly easy. It's the result of a chemical, and it's stated that they would have died if they'd inhaled much more of it.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: In the last segment of the movie, Jean Jacket realizes that he participated in the kidnapping, decides that he's going to choose to help save the kidnapped men, learns that he's actually an undercover police officer, realizes that he organized the kidnappings in the first place, and then decides to ensure that the kidnapped man gets his ransom back.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The movie takes place over the course of less than 6 hours. We start some time after a bunch of kidnappers leave the warehouse to collect the ransom and it ends shortly after they return.
  • Face–Heel Turn: When the kidnappers enter the building, Bound Guy suddenly realizes that he was one of them, just as he was about to let go of the barrel. He then re-aims the barrel at Jean Jacket but doesn't hit him because of Broken Nose's warning.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Averted. Jean Jacket carries a picture of his daughter with him, but being the protagonist he has sufficient Plot Armor to live through the events.
  • Femme Fatale: Coles' wife who brought out the worst in Jean Jacket.
  • Final Speech: Handcuffed Man has an emotional one.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Strangers teaming up to fight an outside threat. Subverted with Bound Man, who undergoes a Face–Heel Turn in the climax and tries to sabotage the plan.
  • Flashback: Characters have flashbacks when the amnesia starts to recede.
  • Gambit Pileup: The ending contains two twists. The second one of the quality "Didn't See That Coming".
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: In a flashback we see how the two captives (Broken Nose and Coles) manage to free themselves from the chairs they are bound on. None of the three kidnappers were around to notice anything or got alarmed by the noise.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Jean Jacket at the end as he is disgusted with the actions he just remembered he seems to revert to the decent person he actually was before being swayed over to the dark side.
  • Hope Spot: The group manages to attract the boy outside the building which fills them with hope. But then the boy's father ushers him away. The father later reports the incident to the Police, so the effort wasn't entirely wasted.
  • How We Got Here: Played out throughout the movie due to the amnesia.
  • Identity Amnesia: The basis of the movie. There are at least two kidnap victims and at least two kidnappers... but no one remembers which is which.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: The kidnapper boss orders Jean Jacket to execute Broken Nose and Coles, which puts the latter in a difficult spot.
  • I Lied: Line by Broken Nose, when confessing that he manipulated Coles into attacking Jean Jacket. His version of events later turns out to be true nonetheless.
  • I Have Your Wife: Gender-inverted hostage plot. Coles is a wealthy man, kidnapped for ransom.
  • Instant Death Bullet: In the climatic ambush, two baddies and Bound Man die instantly of gut shots.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: In the sense that characters regain their memory conveniently in small enough pieces and in the right order so that the whole picture doesn't get figured out until the very end.
  • Nameless Narrative: As the movie title suggests, the group of five don't remember their names and only address each other using pronouns.
  • One-Word Title
  • Police Are Useless: First they let the kidnappers escape with the ransom, then they lose track of them and only arrive at the scene when most of the men are already dead.
  • Quest for Identity: The plot is about the group to find out who they were before the amnesia set in.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Bound Man smashed the bathroom mirror out of frustration.
  • Ransom Drop: The kidnappers order the ransom to be stashed in a public locker. Though Police are surveilling the area with cameras, they fail to realize that the locker has no bottom and the ransom fell through into the station's basement where it was picked up. And it's kinda strange that the person dropping the ransom bag wouldn't notice that it fell, eh? Although they couldn't have done much to re-direct the watching police without betraying their presence, if they had.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Broken Nose, who dies in the final shootout with the kidnappers.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: Because of the pre-nup, Coles' wife wants him killed rather than divorced to get a hand on his fortune.
  • Tracking Device: A tracker is planted in the money bag, so Police could track down the kidnappers. They use a cell phone with a Viewer-Friendly Interface showing the target as a red button. However, the kidnappers smelled a rat and dropped the bag underway.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Jean Jacket's lighter with an inscription of his late daughter's name.
  • Trash Landing: When Jean Jacket is suspended in mid-air, trying to shoot open the bullet-proof window, he has a flashback, loses control and falls down, conveniently landing on a patch of cardboards.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The story splits into two subplots, the primary inside the warehouse and a secondary following the police investigation, both playing out at the same time.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: Jean Jacket is a mole, but also follows his own kill Coles and blame it on the kidnappers so he and Coles' wife can take his fortune and get married.
  • Unflinching Walk: Jean Jacket as he walks away from the pit where the other criminals are, after he drops his lighter onto the gas trail. Cue the contents of the pit going up in a ball of fire...
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: The group does some exposition talk, explaining how their ambush plan on the kidnappers is supposed to work. As the rule suggests, it doesn't go as planned.
  • Use Your Head: A flashback shows how Jean Jacket knocks his head into Broken Nose's face, resulting in a broken nose.
  • Vehicle Vanish: The two cops observe the principal kidnapper leaving the gas station. Then the view is blocked by a truck upon which the kidnapper is gone.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Coles is still nauseous from exposure to the amnesia-inducing gas. His vomiting in the bathroom is only shown from outside the stall.
  • You Wake Up in a Room: The Movie.