on April 24, 2004
Identity is the kind of thriller we haven't seen in a while from Hollywood, the Ten Little Indians scenario where a large group of people are being killed off by an unknown adversary and the suspense level rises until a significant plot twist turns the whole thing on its ear. That's a good movie and Identity, which the exception of some minor hiccups, lives up to it.
A good ensemble cast, including John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Rebecca DeMornay, Amanda Peet, and John C. McGinley, provide adequate amounts of star power and tension. Director James Mangold has proven he can handle this type of material and cast as the director of Copland. In this film he takes a limited location, sets his characters up well, and more or less lets things unfold as they will without forcing the issue.
The one problem is this - if you remember the commercials for the film that ran on television when it opened, they revealed a very important plot device that doesn't give away the big revelation, but comes damn close. In addition, if you are really paying attention, it's not all that hard to guess what it is. This isn't to say that it takes anything away from the film at all. It's very clever and certainly holds your interest for the duration. An argument could also be made that the ending feels tacked on, but at 90 minutes, there's no wasted scenes or extemperaneous dialogue. The DVD does come with an extended version, as well as commentary from Mangold.
An excellent popcorn thriller.
on April 19, 2004
Ever since The Sixth Sense there has been a bizarre desire in Hollywood to make an attempt at some sort of twist ending in every film. Sometimes the twist can work out quite well, like in the Others, but other times the twist ending is so moronic and insulting it ruins the previous good parts of the movie. Well guess what happens here? Another awful plot twist.
The movie, until the twist, is a somewhat suspenseful and creepy reinvention of the slasher genre. Even so, it still falls for all of the old clichés (there always has to be a hooker in these films for some reason) and you could time an oven by the rate at which characters are killed (one every nine minutes) This is easy to overlook as surreal coincidences and events seem to be foreshadowing that some sort of supernatural power is somehow involved in the killings.
Then the plot twist happens. Not only is everything that happens in the movie meaningless, but every character turns out to be imaginary. That's right, the big twist is that the whole movie is a battle between multiple personalities in some fat guy's head. I had no idea the subconscious of a crazy person was so rainy.
on April 16, 2004
In "Adventures In The Screen Trade" Bill Goldman tells a story about the moment in "The Great Waldo Pepper" where the audience turned on the film, and began to hate it. Once a film loses an audience in a way that makes them hostile, it's impossible to get them back. And so it was with me, and "Identity".
Without giving away spoilers it's a little hard for me to describe exactly what it is about this movie that I disliked so intensely, but at its heart my problem is with the central contrivance of the script, which becomes apparent about 20 minutes into the film. The film asks the viewer to speculate on what might or might not be real. The problem with this as a plot device is: if it's not real, do I care what's going on? Superior writers manage to overcome this (for example, Charlie Kaufmann does a pretty bang-up job most of the time with completely unreal scenarios, but it doesn't matter because the purpose of the unreality is to focus the viewer on something else that's important, although he likewise came unstuck in the third act of "Adaptation" for the same reasons). The problem in "Identity" is that the script revolves around trickery that ultimately serves no purpose. If nothing is as it seems, and the characters aren't particularly likeable, and none of this is going toward any larger view, what the heck is the point? "Identity" becomes a very irritating exercise in style. Unfortunately it's not that stylish.
The cast can't be faulted - all excellent. And the direction is fine. What a pity the script is so awful. I truly loathed this film.
on April 15, 2004
Identity is one of my favorite movies of recent time. I remember it fondly when I went to see in the theaters and left there absolutely shocked, but in a good way I was so surprised at what I had just seen. Now this movie is not for everyone, if your idea of thrills come from say Friday the 13th where it's just slash and kill slash and kill then Identity is probably not for you (not that there is anything wrong with slasher flicks of course) Identity is a psychological thrillers where you have to pay attention for almost the entire movie or you are going to be clueless as to what is going on, I think a comparison can be drawn to the movie Se7en, you have to pay attention. The movie drew me in right from the start and never let go.
Story: A group of different people wind up at a run down motel in rainstorm and eventually people start dying. There doesn't appear to be any link to the strangers until they find out that they all have a common link John Cusak is really good in his role and I found a new bit of respect for Amanda Peet, she was also rather entertaining to watch. The director (James Mangol) makes sure that you never really get a chance to relax, he makes sure something is happening the entire movie, that is in my opinion what truly keeps your entertained.
The ending is definitely a weird one but if you keep on paying attention then it will make sense if you truly think about it. A lot of people were complaining about the ending but I liked it, something new and refreshing. I can truly recommend this movie and suggest that you pick it up if you get a chance.
on April 14, 2004
this review is in response to:
UTTER NONSENSE, April 8, 2004
Reviewer: A viewer from poplarville, ms United States
"This movie is confusing, unbelievable and trite."
yes, the movie is confusing...but confusing in the "fight club" way...in "the matrix" way...in "the sixth sense" way...even in the "alice in wonderland" way. it's the kind of movie that's confusing until the end, but then makes perfect sense if you've been paying attention...the kind of movie that has to be watched at least twice - the first time you watch it, you watch it to understand the movie and get the premise and the second time you watch it, you watch it with your new knowledge (new knowledge such as who tyler durden really is, what the matrix is, what the sixth sense is, why alice saw the things that she did) to pick up on the details we couldn't see before.
"The first 100 minutes of the film you can skip. It transpires that all the mayhem, and blood-letting, unconvincing, at the hotel really didnt happen!"
after finding out that all these "strangers" are just different personalities of the psychotic killer, "all the mayhem and blood-letting" takes on a whole new meaning. we see how every "murder" gets rid of one of his personalities. we understand why it's so important to kill the killer - if the killer wins, that personality will dominate malcolm rivers and he will remain a murderer.
"It was all imagined by this chap about to be executed for multiple murders."
"imagine" is such a bad word to use for what goes through malcolm rivers' head -he has several different personalities and they are forced to "meet" each other (in his mind) when his psychiatrist gives him a certain treatment.
"He convinces those taking him o the xecution area, as well as the legal and psychiatric authorities, that he is no longer a danger since now he oly imagines bad things."
this is incorrect - they don't consider him a danger anymore because they believed that the killer personality was killed by another personality, edward.
"Maybe he didnt take his medication that day, but on the way to the prison for the criminally insane he murders everyone in the car, and shortly thereafterwards sends one of his manifest identities, a young boy, to strangle an attractive girl her Florida garden. Apparently, the screenweriter was not satisfied with imaginary characters buried in the synopses of the psychotic killer, but with a Stephen King-like enthusiasm, made it possible for the killer to created these personalities in flesh and blood. I don't think this is clininically possible, and I have poured over the DSM -I-IV, of the AMA.If there were such an entity, it would certainly be a challenge to treat."
this is the biggest mistake in this review - the young boy and former escort don't come to life in "flesh and blood"...all this happens in the killer's mind - another twist to the ending. everyone thought that the child timothy died in the car explosion and that the former escort was the only survivor, but this is not the case. as we watch the woman in her orange grove in florida (in malcolm rivers mind), it seems as though everything is fine now, but timothy comes back and reveals himself as the true killer. he kills the woman and now he is the only personality inside of malcolm's head. because of that internal battle, malcolm reverts back to killer mode and murders his psychiatrist and the driver.
"Since all that happened at the hotel was imaginary, I don't feel that I should have to describe that action."
why not? the hotel was the battlefield in his mind. we see the personalities struggling to survive and this is one of the most heart wrenching parts to watch. the viewer doesn't want the different personalities to die (well...some of them) because we've gotten to know them...BUT we want malcolm to mentally triumph and become just one person, so we're torn.
"I will say this, altough I'm sure such a nuance point was not in the mind of the director or screenwriter, he lack of plot, craziness, inconsistencies, symbol objects such as a key,the curious amount of rain in Nevada, killings, does point to the imaginary ramblings of psychotic killer."
of course it was in their mind. that was the whole point - all of those little things tells you something is not quite right with the scenario. everyone's birthday is on may 10th, everyone's last name is a state name...the viewer is thrown off and believes that some preternatural powers, possibly from the indian burial ground, brought all those ppl together for some purpose. when we find out that those ppl are actually the same person, the viewer has the epiphany, "ahhh...now it all makes sense."
with all that said, i highly recommend the movie. it takes you inside the mind of a schizophrenic killer in the most interesting way...while it doesn't excuse his actions, it evokes feelings of sympathy and pity from the viewer because we see that this man wasn't truly a bad man (we see this especially with the personality edward)...his schizophrenia was caused by something out of his control. while the movie wasn't hugely successful (i think, in part, because it was marketed wrong), it's meant to be a cult classic like fight club or the professional.
on April 8, 2004
One of the characters in this horrid film actually has the temerity to compare what is happening to them to Ms. Christie's classic, Ten Little Indians! This movie is confusing, unbelievable and trite. Let me see if I can dispense this film, obviously launched to acquire money from the less discerning in our population,in a paragraph or so. The first 100 minutes of the film you can skip. It transpires that all the mayhem, and blood-letting, unconvincing, at the hotel really didnt happen! It was all imagined by this chap about to be executed for multiple murders.H e convinces those taking him o the xecution area, as well as the legal and psychiatric authorities, that he is no longer a danger since now he oly imagines bad things. Maybe he didnt take his medication that day, but on the way to the prison for the criminally insane he murders everyone in the car, and shortly thereafterwards sends one of his manifest identities, a young boy, to strangle an attractive girl her Florida garden. Apparently, the screenweriter was not satisfied with imaginary characters buried in the synopses of the psychotic killer, but with a Stephen King-like enthusiasm, made it possible for the killer to created these personalities in flesh and blood. I don't think this is clininically possible, and I have poured over the DSM -I-IV, of the AMA.If there were such an entity, it would certainly be a challenge to treat.
Since all that happened at the hotel was imaginary, I don't feel that I should have to describe that action. I will say this, altough I'm sure such a nuance point was not in the mind of the director or screenwriter, he lack of plot, craziness, inconsistencies, symbol objects such as a key,the curious amount of rain in Nevada, killings, does point to the imaginary ramblings of psychotic killer.
I'm going back to Hitchcock; I've had enough of this. The lst thriller I viewed that was realistic was Sea of Love. If you have not seen this get it, anvailable trough amazon.
One final irritation. This movie had many opportunities for laugh-out loud wicecracks and jokes. Try turning this movie down and providing your own dialogue. It will be hilarious!
on March 22, 2004
Ever see Memento?
Identity's like that. It takes place in another person's mind. It's disjointed. It tells the events out of order. The order of the movie's scenes gives insight into what's really happening. And of course, people die and nobody's sure who did it or how.
Identity is not quite as slick as Memento. It's choppy at parts, disjointed or just plain plays dirty pool in others.
10 strangers end up stranded in the rain at a creepy hotel. The laws of their world slowly unravel as they attempt to escape -- cell phones don't work, cars can't cross the flooded roads, and accidents happen that keep them from escaping the area and each other.
There's a lot of interesting characters. There's the cop and the serial killer con he's escorting to an execution. There's the limo driver who was once a cop. There's the hooker with a heart of gold. The couple who just got married because the girl's pregnant. The average family, complete with silent little boy and weird stepdad. The bitchy washed-up actress. And of course, the freaky hotel owner.
Everyone in the movie has a secret. The secrets unravel as things go from bad to worse and each person gets bumped off. Some of the deaths are accidents, some are outright murders. All of them leave the corpse with a hotel key, in the order of each person killed. Things get REALLY weird when the hotel keys starting showing up on corpses that died by accident.
If you haven't figured it out yet, the rest of this review contains a spoiler. It's the only way I can talk about the film with any candor. So kiddies who don't want the ending spoiled for them, leave the room.
Identity takes place in Malcolm Rivers' head. He has 10 personalities in there banging around and Malcolm is about to be executed for murder. Malcolm murdered a bunch of people at a hotel (six victims, I believe), stabbing them to death. But his psychiatrist submits that Malcolm is legally insane and that a new drug treatment will force the personalities to eliminate each other.
The premise of Identity is great. I also figured it out five minutes into the film. If you pay attention, the pictures in the first few minutes of the film -- along with certain phrases said by the patient -- are repeated by characters within the movie. In that respect, Identity is internally consistent. If you know that (and when I was watching this with my brother, he didn't catch it), the rest of the movie falls into place pretty quickly.
I couldn't help but feel the cut scenes involving the psychiatrist broke up the flow. I wanted a real mystery that strung me along and it felt like Identity thought I was too stupid to keep up.
And yet, Identity is definitely an expertly crafted work. There's even a surprise twist -- the dominant personality isn't who you think it is (SURPRISE!) but what's irritating is that while every other twist and turn can be figured out, the final twist simply can't be predicted.
In essence, the movie is internally consistent until it isn't, and I felt a bit betrayed by the way it ended.
On the other hand, the ending is delicious. It's grimly cynical but perfectly poised, a tribute to everything Hitchcockian and "Ten Little Indians" (which the film directly references). Identity loses points for not being perfectly consistent, but it's still a damn fine movie.
Oh yeah. John Cusack kicks ass in anything with him in it. That boosts a movie normally that would get a 4 from me to a 5.
on March 16, 2004
I find most of the reviews here genuine and I respect others opinions. I don't agree with that particular reviewer ( about a page back ) who claim others who do not like this movie aren't " intelligent enough " to understand it. People have their own minds and opinions. No one has the right to belittle someone because they don't like a film. I paid attention to all the reviews and found each one helpful ( except the one I mentioned above ). Intelligence is the least of it. People can hate a film like this and it does not mean they can't understand it. You dislike a film because you DO understand it. Identity was a waste of time for me. I love John Cusack but I found the film boring and slow. I could tell what was going to happen the minute I began watching. The plot is very predictable but to each's own. My review comes from the heart. I respect people who liked the film and who didn't as long as it was an honest and fair review. Give the film a try if you haven't seen it. You may like it. Some do, some didn't. But don't knock someone else's intelligence just because they don't agree with your taste. That's why the world is different.
on March 7, 2004
What goes on inside the mind of a madman? What goes on inside the mind of a homocidal madman? What goes on inside the mind of a homocidal madman who suffers from delusions and multiple-personality syndrome? If you are curious as to what any of these answers might be, this movie may be for you.
This is the most well-acted film I have seen in quite awhile. It has two top-shelf male actors in John Cusack and Ray Liotta and the dynamic they create is splendid to watch. The lovely and talented Amanda Peet rounds out the big names in the flick.
I can figure out a lot of thrillers right off the bat. This one, however, really kept me guessing. You think you know what's going on, but you really don't. It's told in a bit of a TWILIGHT ZONEesqe style where Rod Serling seems to be hiding behind every corner.
For fans of the thriller / mystery genre, you won't find a better one than this. It comes in two forms (options on the DVD): theatrical release & expansion edition. I would recommend the latter as I don't like it when Hollywood cuts out scenes just for the sake of brevity.
If you ever wanted to see an Alfred Hitchcock meets Sigmund Freud movie, here is your chance. Carl Gustav Jung would have loved this film!
on March 6, 2004
The movie is off to a brilliant start. A serial killer is being given a last minute review of his death sentence (insanity plea) even as 10 people find themselves in a motel where they are being killed one by one. The psychiatrist is arguing the serial killers case. Meanwhile, the people in the motel discover that people are being killed according to their motel room numbers. They are all very different, a soap opera star, a chauffeur, a call girl, a cop, but they all have one thing in common. They were all born on the 10th of may. Who is killing them? One of them? The spirits of Ancient Indians on whose burial ground the hotel is built? The serial killer? Are these people seemingly normal people, or is there something more to them.
If you are a psychological thriller fan, the ending won't surprise you. Afterall, the premise is one of the most popular in this genre of film. However, it has never been protrayed as interestingly. I heard gasps in the theatre as the `truth' was revealed. It won't make you scream, or startle but the plot is very well crafted. It takes very creative writing to make a suspenseful film based on such a done to death premise. Watch it and prepare to be misled.