A woman comes to in a river in France. She can't remember who she is or how she got there but has in her possession a bag filled with gobs of cash and a loaded gun. This is the hook Danish director Christian E. Christiansen elects to open his twisty little film with. At first blush, it may suggest a launching point into Bourne territory or even the sort of Euro thriller that someone like Liam Neeson would be at home in (Unknown comes to mind). Fortunately ID:A marches to the beat of a different drum. It certainly has flashes of action but it primarily traffics in intrigue in a manner that would have made Hitchcock proud (a name I don't mean to invoke lightly).
Getting back to the pretty amnesiac, the film follows Ida (Tuva Novotny) as she checks her battered self into a hotel and catches the eye of the proprietor's hunky son. He helps her figure out that she may not be French after all. Her path of discovery, peppered with clues and minor reveals leads her back to her home and husband (Flemming Enevold) in Denmark. Before you can say "Yaaay! Happy Ending!", it becomes obvious that Ida's primary challenge lies not in regaining her identity but in figuring out why she lost it in the first place. There's also the small matter of a couple of unsavory fellows who won't stop following her. The truth doesn't stay hidden for long as it comes rushing back to Ida in an extended flashback sequence. Without getting too spoilery, let's just say her past was ugly and violent and well worth escaping.
I've barely scratched the surface of Ida's story (that flashback is a doozy) and I'd like to keep it that way. The movie is packed with twists and turns as Ida encounters unexpected allies (her brother played by Carsten Bjørnlund is a complete badass) and some truly evil bastards along the way. While the plot machinations are a bit far-fetched, they obey a certain internal logic which is always a nice fringe benefit for a thriller. It helps that Christiansen expertly ramps up the intensity while keeping pace with Ida's rapidly expanding world view. We believe everything that happens to her because we're hardly given enough time to have any doubts.
Speaking of Ida, Novotny's performance is what anchors the whole film. She may start out looking like a damsel in distress but the full scope of her survival instincts come to the foreground as we realize what she's been through and just what she'll have to do in order to survive the ordeal she's in. Novotny blossoms just as Ida's memories return to her. As great as Novotny is, Carsten Bjørnlund turns out to be the real scene-stealer. He is simply riveting as Ida's mysterious brother and is a big part of why the film's second half feels as unpredictable as it is. Enevold shoulders what is perhaps the trickiest role in the film. His character is a slippery one possessing a certain reptilian charm.
Director Christiansen has accomplished something quite impressive here: a thriller that actually thrills. He understands the inherent pleasure of watching a plucky protagonist going up against undeniable evil in a maze of fractured memories. The results deserve to be savored.