Director – James Mangold
Cast – John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, John Hawkes, Alfred Molina, Clea Duvall, John C. McGinley, William Lee Scott, Jake Busey, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Rebecca De Mornay
Release Year – 2003
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Due to the fact that “thriller” films incorporate several aspects that horror films do(suspense, violence), as well as my personal enjoyment for thrillers, I have decided to throw in thriller films as well into this horror project. When I think of great thrillers I imagine several of Hitchcock’s films, one being “Strangers on a Train” of course. Quite often since the days of Hitchcock we have been given mindless thrillers that offer cheap thrills and even cheaper direction. However, in 2003 a rare gem of a thriller was delivered to us by director James Mangold(who had previously directed “Girl, Interrupted”) and his star studded cast, the film was titled “Identity”.
The film follows the legal case of convicted murderer Malcom Rivers(the excellent Pruitt Taylor Vince)who committed some rather heinous crimes. Although he has since been sentenced to death for his crimes, a journal he had written at the time of the crimes had been “lost in evidence” by the prosecution and has now surfaced and is believed to contain enough evidence to allow him to be granted a “stay in execution” by reason of insanity. A late night meeting between the presiding judge, prosecutors, his lawyer, and an expert psychologist Dr. Malick(Alfred Molina) has been called so that both sides can discuss this matter and the judge will rule on his fate. We are then thrown into a crazy story involving complete strangers from all walks of life falling victim to various unfortunate events and all winding up at a remote Nevada motel, with no where to go due to flooding. When the strangers soon start dying one by one, they begin pointing fingers at each other as they try and figure out who the culprit is. However after some investigation they begin to realize they all may not have arrived at the motel out of mere coincidence, as they all share a common secret that may have to do with why they are there, and why they are slowing being killed off. As Dr. Malick begins to pry into Malcom Rivers’ thoughts at the late night meeting, we are then shown an incredible twist that will determine who lives and who dies between our strangers at the motel. Don’t rush to judgement however, the shocks are just beginning.
This film is one of those thrillers that is just done right. The pacing is perfect and gets you hooked right from the start. The story is great, the score is great, the directing is great, the acting is good, and the atmosphere and scenery are perfect for this story. Like I mentioned, this story grabs your attention right from the beginning. Aside from maybe about 10 minutes of drag time a little after midway through the film, I was completely glued to the screen! I really liked the storyline and how every time we think someone is the killer, they get killed off in pretty gruesome fashion. Although we don’t see many of the deaths actually “happen”, this film did not stray away from showing us the aftereffects of the gory deaths. Normally I would gawk at the idea of not being able to SEE the kills and only the aftereffects, but this film does not fall victim to that notion due to the fact that if we saw the kills, then it would much easier to guess who the killer is. We would be able to judge the height, and most likely the sex of the killer as well if we were able to at least see their hands or feet, and its never fun figuring out who the killer is early on in the film! As you all should know by now, I’m a huge fan of people being stuck in an area with nowhere to go while a killer is on the loose. It really adds to the sense of claustrophobia knowing that you really truly have nowhere to hide. The rainy, night time setting at the motel is perfect for this scenario due to the fact that there are only 10 rooms at the motel, which lets the killer slowly eliminate any possibilities of where the next victim can be hiding.
Overall, this is a great paced, tension filled thriller that will keep you guessing, give you some hope, and then throw all that away and make you keep guessing again until the shocking conclusion that you never saw coming.
– I ranked this film #46 in my Top 50 Horror Movies of the Decade(41-50) post.