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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Identity: Special Edition
Identity: Special Edition
Columbia/Tri-Star // R // September 2, 2003
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted August 24, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


(Note: although this review doesn't spoil much, it's recommended that "Identity" should be seen without reading any reviews. You may just want to skip down to the DVD review part of this particular review.)

A tricky thriller that's not as tricky upon a closer inspection, "Identity" is a creeper in the style of "The Others" (although not as satisfying as that film, I think) and other twisty mysteries. Although it seems like a particularly surprising choice for director James Mangold ("Girl, Interrupted", "Copland"), the director manages to keep the pace tight, develop characters enough to gain interest, and hit the twists and scares with energy. There is a major surprise within, but upon a second examination, it isn't such a sudden spin in a new direction. I'm still not entirely sold on it, as while I can appreciate the unexpectedness of it, it leads to a somewhat unsatisfying last few minutes in certain ways.

The film wastes little time in introducing the characters: Ed (John Cusack) is a former cop who is now working as a limo driver for faded star Caroline Suzanne (Rebecca De Mornay). Rhodes (Ray Liotta) is an officer transfering Maine (Jake Busey). Paris (Amanda Peet) is a hooker from Las Vegas who was going to Florida to settle into a life running an orange grove. Ginny (Clea DuVall) and Lou (William Lee Scott) are newlyweds, while George (John C. McGinley), is accompanied by a stepson and his wife, who is badly injured. They all arrive at a tiny, out-of-the-way hotel managed by Larry (John Hawkes).

Despite attempts, none of them are going anywhere, as the constant rain has left all of the roads flooded. Meanwhile, in the city, a psychiatrist (Alfred Molina) is trying to make a case for his client (Pruitt Taylor Vince) to a judge. At the hotel, the newly arrived guests start getting taken out - one-by-one. It's up to the remainder to try and figure out who among them is responsible.

"Identity" has a series of good performances under its belt. Liotta plays his cards well, keeping the audience unsure of what his motives are. Although Cusack is better known for some of his comedies, he once again shows here how well he can play drama, adding gravity to this particular picture. McGinley and Peet are effective and Hawkes is solid as the creepy hotel manager. Technical credits are also superb; production design is first-rate (the film's hotel was built from scratch on a large soundstage, where the actors were constantly rained upon), as is 'scope cinematography by Phedon Papamichael. The picture is crisply edited, as well, coming in at a slim 90 minutes without managing to delete necessary character/story elements.

It'll likely not hold much replay value for most, but strangely enough, I found "Identity" better the second time around on DVD, after seeing it in the theater. I had a greater appreciation for Cusack's performance, which really does most of the work at holding the picture together. Although I'm still not entirely sold on the ending, I did appreciate the film's construction a tad more the second time around.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Identity" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and heavily cropped 1.33:1 pan & scan editions by Columbia/Tristar (both presentations share the same side of a dual-layer, single-sided disc.) Despite the film's dark visuals, the level of detail present in the transfer is pretty impressive; the picture maintains a very enjoyable level of definition even in the darkest scenes.

Despite having both versions (and supplements) on one dual-layer disc, the picture really didn't show anything much in the way of faults. Some slight noise was apparent in a scene or two, but that was about it. No edge enhancement at all was noticed, making for a clean and smooth image throughout. The print also appeared in tip-top shape, with no specks, marks or other wear. The film's color palette is quite subdued (with a couple of exceptions) and appeared accurately rendered.

SOUND: "Identity" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Those with a back rear surround speaker should enable it during this soundtrack; its presence adds to the sense of envelopment in an already very immersive soundtrack. Similar to John Travolta's recent "Basic", the constant presence of rain throughout the picture can be heard from all around the listening space, along with the occasional roll of thunder. That's certainly not all, though, as other sound effects and ambience can be occasionally heard from the rears. Sound effects are presented with a moderate amount of intensity. The occasional hint of score comes through clearly, as does dialogue.

EXTRAS:

Commentary: Director James Mangold provides an enjoyable and intelligent commentary for the movie. The director thankfully doesn't narrate the story, filling the 90 minute time by offering an interesting discussion on his perspectives regarding different aspects (visual, storytelling, editing) of filmmaking. He also goes into greater detail about how he became involved with "Identity" and his experiences on the production. A very good commentary that, like the movie, moves along quite well.

Also: A "Starz" on-set featurette, 4 deleted scenes with commentary from the director, 3 storyboard-to-scene comparisons, filmographies and trailer for "Identity".

Final Thoughts: "Identity" is an enjoyable thriller, with good performances. Although I appreciate that it does go in original directions, sometimes the film loses its effectiveness as a result. Columbia/Tristar's DVD edition provides excellent audio/video and good supplements. Recommended as a rental for those interested.

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