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Member Name: chrisandmark
Date: 18/06/05, updated on 27/06/05 (117 review reads)
Advantages: A brilliantly simple plot, The film twists and turns so much you really need to thing about what's going on
Disadvantages: None at all
When 10 strangers, all travelling through the night, are caught in a wild storm they take shelter in a miles-from-anywhere motel. Thinking they're just there for the duration of the storm they make themselves comfortable and wait for the weather to ease. The weather is so bad that all communications are down and roads in and out of the motel are blocked, and here the fun starts! One by one the strangers start dying brutal and bloody deaths, seemingly cut down by someone in a manical frenzy. Immediately all fingers point to a killer who was in transit with cops, but when he too is murdered the captive travellers have to look elsewhere. As time goes on they realise there's a tenuous link connecting them, and this secret must be discovered so that some lives at least can be saved.
The actors starring in Identity are fantastic and you can tell they've put everything into the making of the film. As a former cop John Cusack is excellent, giving off a confident and in control aura throughout the film even when he has to err to the rash judgements of present cop Ray Liotta. Talking of Liotta, we've not heard much from him at all since the days of Goodfellas but in Identity he shines as a strong actor and I hope this film is the start of another new chapter in his career. Rebecca DeMornay plays the bolshy bimbette (as usual) and she does this to perfection, while the only weak performance I could see was from relative newcomer Amanda Peet who throughout the film simply looked bored with her surroundings. As Identity is set in a motel there are few outside characters which allows you to get to know the people involved in the crisis, something not really possible in other films where there could be hundreds of minor characters to take into consideration.
Presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, the picture on Identity is excellent. It's a dark film showing badly lit motel rooms and outside scenes rely on background lighting, yet the picture is practically flawless. Colours are sharp and black scenes are solid without so much as a hint of jaggies, shadows are present only because it's necessary to the film to create as dark and foreboding atmosphere as possible. Identity is a high impact piece of work and much of the shock twists are visual so a crystal clear uncluttered picture is a necessity.
As with the picture, the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is perfect. For the majority of Identity you'll be able to hear the rain lashing down outside and this is where your surround sound speakers come in. When it thunders (which is often) you'll hear it booming around your living room and it sounds brilliantly realistic when combined with the constant sound of the rain falling. Why is the rain so important? Because the rain is the reason the strangers are in their present situation and the director hasn't forgotten this for a moment. Character dialogue is also sharp to the point of being able to hear indrawn breaths before they speak. Top notch. There is a minimal soundtrack which is used well, although there is little music in the film.
Extras are good on the DVD. There's an interesting audio commentary from James Mangold and in this he explains how Identity came about, from concept to filming. He rightly praises the cast for their parts in the film, particularly as they were filming in near darkness in torrential rain for most of the film. However, this commentary contains plot spoilers so ensure you watch the film first. The crew talk about the making of Identity in another bonus feature but this is your standard "aren't we the most friendly bunch of people ever" type thing which is a bit cheesy and obviously scripted. You'll be able to watch 5 deleted scenes, including 4 with commentary explaining why they ended up on the floor of the editing room. This is cleverly done with the film being shown in black and white and then cutting into colour for the deleted scene. The storyboard comparisons are interesting with your screen being split in two halves, the bottom half showing the actual scene while the top half shows the storyboard. This allows you a brief insight into how the film was made and is a very good extra.
Also on the disc are trailers for Identity, Darkness Falls, Thirteen Ghosts and Hollow Man as well as a filmography for some of the main cast and crew. The alternate ending isn't all it's cracked up to be, with the ending which was used being better as far as twists go and it also seems to be more in keeping with the film.
In brief this was a brilliant film, totally without fault. It's gripping as a thriller should be but not so over the top that you can't take the film seriously. The deaths are gory and Identity fills you with suspense from start to finish. Not only this but you'll find yourself thinking about the film for days afterwards trying to make sense of what appear to be loose ends - and I've come to the conclusion that they're not loose ends, the 'confusing' aspects of the film seem deliberate as though director James Mangold has left them to make you think.
As a viewer you're watching the drama unfold as Identity has so many plot twists and turns that you never quite know what's going to happen next. One minute you're rooting for a character and then he or she does something that makes you think yeah, perhaps they're the killer - this happens this other way round too, there's one character (and I'm not telling you who) that I reckon you're going to despise as soon as he puts his face on camera but you're perception of him will change as the film develops.
And you will never in a zillion years see what's coming at the end.