I.D., Please
Film review by: Witney Seibold

            “Identity,” the new thriller from director James Mangold (“Girl, Interrupted”), and writer Michael Cooney (the “Jack Frost” movies), is a difficult film for me to discuss. For the sake of suspense, not only must I not reveal which characters get killed, but there is a sucker of a plot twist that I can’t even hint at. That said, I shall carefully proceed.
            On a Dark and Stormy Night, a group of ten people wind up stranded at the same Nevada motel. There is an ex-hooker (Amanda Peet), a limo driver (John Cusack), a cop (Ray Liotta), his prisoner (Jake Busey, reprising his role from “The Frighteners,” only alive), the wiggy motel owner (John Hawkes), a young couple (Clea DuVall and William Lee Scott), and Rebecca De Mornay (!). As the weather dictates (dark ‘n’ stormy) people soon begin turning up dead. The ten strangers also begin to discover connections that they have. Running alongside this story is the last-minute hearing of a death-row serial killer (Pruitt Taylor Vince), and his shrink (Alfred Molina). Somehow these stories connect, but I wouldn’t possibly tell you how.
            I will say, however, that I was surprised, intrigued, and shaken by this film. Too many “thrillers” and slashers have relied on gore or impossible plot twists to try and hook the audience. Identity does have a twist and a nice amount of blood, but what stands out is its intelligence. And when we learn the twist, not only is it plausible (not realistic, mind you, but plausible), but it comes at the beginning of the third act, and not the end. A film that can keep the tension up after it’s already changed its own rules is a well-done film.
            It’s not a perfect film. The horror images (every door creaks, every female shrieks, and we get a severed head in a dryer) occupy more filmic space than they need to; it treats its typical images with more weight than they deserve. But with so many good actors in a screenplay not preoccupied with irony and chuckles, it’s certainly a worthy go.

Amanda Peet, fire your agent.

Published in: on May 28, 2009 at 9:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

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