With an all-star cast that includes John Cusack, Ray Liotta, and Amanda
Peet, and an eerie and twisting plot, 2003's Identity is a decent
suspense film that tries really hard but ultimately doesn't achieve all
that it sets out to do. It's still a film that's worth watching,
and the Sony Blu-ray disc makes that a pleasurable experience.
With an excellent picture and wonderful sound, this is a disc worth picking
Ed (John Cusack) is a ex-cop who eaks out a living as a limo driver
in LA. While driving a spoiled aging star (Rebecca DeMornay) back
from a shoot ion a torrential rain storm, he accidentally hits a woman
(Leila Kenzle). With everyone's cell phone on the blink due to the
weather, he takes the woman and her family to a nearby motel. It
turns out that the hotel is the only shelter available. The roads
have been washed out in all directions, and as the storm gets worse more
people take rooms. There's an ex-prostitute (Amanda Peet), a newlywed
couple on their way back from Las Vegas, (Clea DuVall and William Lee Scott),
and a corrections officer, Rhodes, who is transporting a convicted killer
to a new prison (Ray Liotta and Jake Busey.) Together with the creepy
motel manager, (John Hawkes) the ten temporary residents of the motel just
want the weather to break so they can get on with their lives.
Things take a turn for the worse when Ed discovers the movie star's
head in a clothes dryer and it's discovered that the killer Rhodes was
escorting has managed to escape. As the motel residents start dying
one by one, it seems that everyone has something to hide, and no one is
quite who they seem to be. As the bodies start to stack up, each
one with a room key in their possession counting down from 10 which victim
they are, the survivors start getting ever more paranoid and panicked.
Then they discover that the bodies them selves have started to disappear.
This is a movie that aims really high and almost makes it. The
film has an eerie atmosphere that really works well, and the whole production
has a Twilight Zone feel to it. A large part of that is because
things don't quite make sense. When the killer escapes, he runs out
into the desert only to find himself back at the Motel again. There
are several clues like that, sprinkled through the film, that give small
hints as to what's going on. The problem is that the big twist in
the film doesn't come at the end, but 2/3 through the movie. After
that the movie loses a lot of its impact. Sure, viewers see things
differently from that point on, but who the killer is and how the people
will escape is no longer an urgent matter. The surprise feels cheap
too, like that season of the TV show Dallas where the entire year's
worth of shows turned out to be a dream. To add insult to injury,
immediately after the twist we're treated to a long explanation of what
has just happened, and then they reiterate it once again near the end of
the movie. Anyone who has more than one firing neuron will understand
the first time through, (my wife actually figured it out early) and having
it explained several times really slows the momentum.
Even with these this problem with the script and the way the story unfolds,
I found myself enjoying the film. Director James Mangold creates
a claustrophobic and tense environment and does a very credible job.
Though I felt a little cheated by the twist, the moments leading up to
that revelation were exciting and fun.
To put it succinctly, the 2.40:1 image looks fantastic with little room
for criticism. The vast majority of this movie takes place on a rainy
night and the Blu-ray disc reproduces that low light scenes very well.
There is plenty of detail in the shadows and dark rooms and the blacks
were solid. The transfer looked just as good in scenes well lit scenes
also. The colors were a little soft, as the director undoubtedly
intended, but even and the white levels were great. With excellent
definition throughout and no digital defects this is a great looking disc.
As strong as the video was, the audio was even more impressive.
This disc offers a choice of uncompressed PCM tracks in English and German
as well as DD 5.1 tracks in English, German, and French. There is
also a descriptive audio track in English for the visually impaired.
There are also subtitles in, count 'em, 22 languages! If you need
a specific language, it's probably there.
This movie uses the full soundstage throughout the movie. The
audio is very enveloping, with the rain and thunder surrounding the viewer
totally. This adds to the claustrophobic feel of the movie quite
well. There is a lot of directionality too, with shouts and thunderclaps
seeming to come from different areas of the room. I love this
type of audio, where the viewer is put slap-dab in the middle of the action.
Added to that the fact that the audio is clean and clear with not track
of distortion, dropouts, or other common audio defects and you have a fantastic
With 50 GB discs now readily available, BDs are finally getting a full
compliment of extras. This disc includes a commentary track by director
James Mangold, and a second commentary (that is available only on the Blu-ray
release as far as I've been able to tell) by writer Michael Cooney.
I enjoyed the second one a bit more, but both were informative. The
four deleted scenes (presented in HD) were pretty good and could have been
left in the film. They all have optional comments from Mangold too.
Three scenes get the storyboard-to-completed-scene treatment and it's always
fun to see how the concept translates to the finished product. The
only bonus item that I could have lived without is the 15-minute "making
of' featurette. This is a total fluff piece and doesn't offer anything
worthwhile. On top of that it is only in 480i.
Identity almost works, but doesn't quite. More of a suspense
picture than a horror film (all of the violence takes place off camera)
director James Mangold crafts an eerie film that effectively communicates
to the audience the trapped feeling that the characters have. Unfortunately
the twist in the story only works to a certain extent and many viewers
will feel cheated when they discover what's really going on. Even
though the movie is flawed, the good sections make it worth watching.
A light recommendation.