Identity has a fairly strong opening. Its a setup that we've seen time and time again even long before the film's original release in 2003 but the film takes its time to show the different perspectives of how everybody came together. The film starts off with a strong structure that allows you to understand everything occuring with ease. The film takes its time planting loose threads and possible motives all over the first act, most of which were done quite well for the time being. Where many films of this variety stumble right out of the gate Identity begins on a great footing. That, unfortunately, just makes it all the more disappointing that the film begins to trip over its own feet afterwards.
Starting from the second act onward the film's problems begin to crop up. Artificial conflict between some characters begin without any setup at all while points that should create conflict between other characters simply don't. Characters that mostly behave logically have complete lapses in basic judgement when there's a known serial killer on the loose when they're all crowded in a perfectly safe, secure room with two armed police officers. There is a fine line between irrational paranoia and blatant foolishness and characters frequenty trudge into the latter realm. The film mostly stops using its cuts into chronology like it did earlier in the film and settles into a more traditional method of storytelling, something which does nothing to distract from the logical issues with the script.
Identity is very genre conscious, with characters at one point even saying that the situation that they're in is like in movies that they've seen before. The film tries to be very clever in itsreptition of undermining audience expectations, or at least trying to do so. You may think "oh, they're going with this tired cliche" when they subvert it and then introduce another that they, again, subvert. Its an interesting idea for a script but most of the subversion fails. If you have a keen eye you'll notice what are supposed ominous hints that ultimately are techical failures that don't hold up to scrutiny. Some characters outright state things that are factual in its world and the the real world that directly contradict the direction that the story is headed . Some absolutely essential details are omitted and then the film frames it as a shocking twist when there was no reason to leave the audience in the dark about it to begin with. In a sense, the film "cheats" in other ways that I couldn't describe without getting deep into story spoilers. Identity's worst sin is that at the end of every one of these subversions is just one of the cliches that was on your shortlist of possible cliches to begin with, usually the one most worth an eyeroll and exasperated sigh. That isn't subversion, its tedious process of elimination. Identity's genre consciousness is an ambitious idea that ultimately disappoints over and over. With each revelation a larger failure than the previous one, the final act is filled with disappointing ends to every thread and every opportunity to put itself back on track by revealing a shocking twist ends up just derailing the film even further as you immediately reject the twist without even having to wait for a pause in the action to think it over.
Identity starts off with strong writing, acting, and directing. but as the film proceeds each of those categories begin to suffer. Its final act in particular is a trainwreck of comic proportions, so misaligned with the beginning of the film that you suspect that it was written by somebody else entirely. Identity clearly had the potential to rewrite the genre by being aware of it and trying to subvert genre tropes and cliches but ultimately it ends up emulating of the worst of the genre, leaving you to roll your eyes so frequently that you'll need to schedule an appointment with an optometrist shortly after viewing.
(Full review TBD)
John Cusack is always one of my favorite actors as the every-man and audience surrogate. I loved what he did in Identity. Ray Liotta brings his perfect brand of tough guy attitude and that adds a lot to the film as well. The other standout for me was John Hawkes whose face I recognize but I don't know if I've ever seen him do this much to develop a role. Amanda Peet has never been one of my favorite actresses. I simply don't buy her in the role and she needed to be a stronger presence in the film.
I think there is some stretching of reality for this film. I mean there was simply an element that won't hold up if you put too much thought into it. I went with it all, and just accepted it as movie logic. Also of note in Identity is the score. I'm not typically someone who notices the score all that much, but for some reason Alan Silvestri's work made an impression here. It did a great job of setting tone. This is an excellent mystery thriller with a well-crafted script and a solid cast, so I'd definitely recommend it to others.
#Content: Script 4 | Acting 4 | Cinematography 4 | Film Editing 4
#Visual: Costume Design 3 | Makeup & Hairstyling 3 | Scenic Design 3 | Lighting 3 | Visual Effects 3
#Sound: Score & Soundtracks 3 | Sound Editing & Mixing 3
#Overall (1~10): 7