Thursday, 20 May 2010

Looking Back: Identity

Released in 2003, James Mangold, the director of the critically-acclaimed Walk the Line and up-and-coming action-romantic-comedy Knight and Day, brought us the psychological horror/thriller, Identity.

When eleven seemingly innocent strangers find themselves, all under different circumstances, stranded at an isolated motel during a storm, not all is right. Elsewhere, a murderer's execution is halted due to a last minute hearing, led by his psychologist Alfred Molina.

As the night progresses, each of the eleven strangers are mysteriously, and brutally, murdered. What they originally thought were a string of unintentionally-planned murders turns rather sinister as they realise their fellow-strandees are systematically dying.

Lead by ex-cop John Cusack, the cast of characters range from the bewilderingly inept to the resourceful. Whilst the lesser-known actors aimlessly flail themselves into a fortuitous death, the stronger, more capable, characters - Cusack, Amanda Peet, Ray Liotta - remain standing, solving the riddle as it progresses, all-the-while dealing with the curious happenings at the motel.

Clearly inspired by Hitchcock's Psycho, the motel retains a similar negative vibe. Aided entirely by the storm ravaging it's surroundings, the motel stands - like Psycho - as a partial character, as well as the main attraction in the plot involving the strangers.

Shrouded in mystery, the film never particularly strays far enough for your attention to be withdrawn from the characters and the undeniably odd situation they find themselves in. Providing enough suspense and thrills to hold the attention span of a three year old, the film grips as it twists and turns, throwing you in the deep end with the arguably shocking ending.

The ending, like many films of its kind, will split the audience right down the middle. The vast majority, i like to think, are like myself; overly ecstatic that the obvious 'hero' didn't disgracefully 'discover' him/her/itself as the psychotic, mystery murderer we've attempted to desperately uncover since the opening few minutes. Luckily, what we're given is something incredibly original - back in 2003, anyway - and genuinely well-made. Upon first viewing, i have no doubts that slight hesitation will be apparent. Psychological-favourite Michael Cooney, the writer of Identity, should be praised on his efforts of the 'shock and awe' tactic that is sadly so obscured and poorly executed in most films that it may as well be without.

While the film doesn't exactly contain the same effect as it does upon first viewing, it remains a perfectly entertaining psychological thriller, with the thrills and chills still as satisfying as it was the day i sat down as an unsuspecting, and slightly bewildered, 10 year old.


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