One doesn't see too many Danish noir thrillers released in the U.S., so it's difficult to know what to expect from something like ID:A. Fortunately, it's a tightly scripted number with compelling characters, and a central mystery that draws in the viewer.
We open to see a young woman, who we later come to know as Ida (Tuva Novotny), awake from unconsciousness half submerged in a river. She's been wounded, with a gash on her head, she has a heavy canvas bag next to her, and no memory of who she is. She stumbles to a nearby hotel, and finds that she's in France. She hits it off with the hotel owner's son Pierre (Arnaud Binard), and after checking in discovers that the bag is full of money and a gun. The plot thickens when two men come around looking for her, with clearly ill intent. She needs to leave, and quickly.
When Pierre tells her that she has a Danish accent, she determines to go to Denmark, to escape her pursuers and try to find out the truth about her past. On the bus ride, she overhears someone listening to the music of Just Ore (Fleming Onevold), and is deeply affected by it, inexplicably drawn to the singer. She goes to his next concert, and learns that he is her husband. She still has no memory of him, or her sister, or their friends, house, etc. The strange men are still following her, and she hires a private detective to find out who they are. Things begin to get quite complicated at this point. Somehow, this is all connected to her missing brother, arms sales to Palestinians, bank robberies, and the assassination of an EU politician, quite near to where she awoke in France.
The plot in outline sounds somewhat formulaic, and in its bare bones it is. But the execution is nearly flawless, and the working out of it so intricate, yet so effortless and organic that it rises above the pat feeling of the premise. Ida recovers her memories piecemeal, in flashes and spurts throughout the film. And then all in a rush, at a moment of what could be called extreme stress, the memories come flooding back, resulting in an extended flashback. This isn't handled clumsily, however, but quite the opposite. The flashback sequence builds and maintains its own tension, while filling in the missing pieces of Ida's fragmented experience.
ID:A can be a bit brutal at times, but it is extremely effective. Novotny is superb as heroine and protagonist Ida, sexy or determined or emotive as needed. She has a strong supporting cast as well, with Carsten Bjornlund as her brother Martin providing the most powerful performance. The tale is complex, but never confusing or sluggish. It's tightly plotted, intense, with a few bursts of action here and there. And it's surprisingly sweet at its core, despite the sometimes nasty and cruel actions of its characters. The visual style is elegant and accomplished, and the direction is assured and competent. There really isn't anything to criticize here. Highly recommended.