Movie Review: Amazon Studios & IFC Films' Complete Unknown

Complete Unknown
Release Date: August 26, 2016 (select theaters)
Rated: Rated R for some language
Running Time: 90 minutes
Studio: IFC Films and Amazon Studios
Directed By: Joshua Marston
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates
Official Sites: Website | Facebook | Twitter
This shape-shifting tale of the perils and pleasures of self-reinvention begins at a dinner party, when Tom’s (Michael Shannon) co-worker arrives with an intriguing date named Alice (Rachel Weisz). Tom is convinced he knows her, but she refuses to acknowledge their history. And when Alice makes a hasty exit, Tom sets off after her. What follows is an all-night odyssey shared by two people, one needing to change his life, the other questioning how to stop changing.

Complete Unknown, what did I just see?  Seriously.  Thank goodness there is a film synopsis that accompanies my review, or I wouldn’t know how to categorize this film.  I thought it was going to be a suspenseful drama, but it wasn’t.  What Complete Unknown turned-out to be a was a total disappointment, a bait and switch almost. 

I thought this movie was about mystery and suspense because the beginning of the movie led me to think it.  There were several intriguing shots of a woman wearing different get-ups.  The beginning of the film was full of interesting tidbits of a plot that appeared to be going somewhere.  There was a definite “fatal attraction” feel to the first twenty minutes.  I was on the edge of my seat.

The film boasts a too great a cast to not go anywhere.  The movie stars Michael Shannon and Rachel Weisz.  Kathy Bates and Danny Glover are also among the cast.  These are all actors I have loved in other films. What could go wrong?  A lot.

For a film dealing heavily with issues of identity,  Complete Unknown seems to be lacking in an identity of its own.  It started like a suspense film and, when the plot was revealed, it went nowhere.  No suspense.  No mystery.  It was just a story about an estranged weirdo managing to creep back into the life of the object of their affection.  Then, the audience watched a day in the life of a con.

I also didn’t understand some of the imagery.  There is a shot of a cooked goat head in one scene.  There is another scene that is devoted to frogs.  It felt as if the film was trying too hard to reach some artsy plateau that it thought it had to reach for art house appeal.  The effort fell short, as these scenes detracted from the experience.  

It was uninteresting.  I did a lot of yawning, and that is a big deal considering the movie was only ninety minutes long.  The whole movie seemed outlandish.  It asked me to care about these people at this one dinner party, but gave me no reason why they deserved my attention.  If you wanted to see it, it  might be better to wait for on demand video formats than at a movie theater.  I can’t recommend Complete Unknown, but it opened on Friday, September 2.


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