When I reviewed the campaign for Complete Unknown back in August I found the movie more or less compelling. It was being sold as a combination of drama and thriller, with a mystery of sorts at the core of the story.
That story revolved around Alice (Rachel Weisz), a woman with a penchant for reinvention. Not just changing what she does but who she is. She drifts around assuming different personas and names. She winds up – intentionally – at the birthday party of Tom (Michael Shannon), a man she dated 15 years earlier and who knew her by her real name. Her presence triggers issues for him as he considers who he’s become and for her as she once more feels the pull to escape and become someone knew.
There’s less mystery in the actual movie than might be expected from the trailer. The story doesn’t focus on getting to the truth behind Alice’s actions. At least it’s not focused on getting to the bottom of that. Instead the “why” is more or less explained by Alice herself one the course of the movie, particularly through the conversations she has with Tom and the rest of the attendees at his birthday party. There’s no real mystery that drives things, just the continuing unraveling of Alice’s stories as she explains why she disappeared 15 years ago and what she’s been doing since then.
That’s not to say it’s not compelling. Far from it. the performances by Weisz and Shannon keep a story that doesn’t have a lot of inherent tension – outside of what decision Tom will make about his future – taut and interesting. Both represent their characters well, showing two people who are coming together after a long time apart. When the story is just them walking and talking and trying to figure each other out after all this time it’s at its best. When it veers off into an unnecessary scene with Kathy Bates and Danny Glover it’s far less interesting.
Complete Unknown is available on Amazon Prime now.