Identity (film)

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Identity
Identity poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by James Mangold
Produced by Cathy Konrad
Written by Michael Cooney
Starring John Cusack
Ray Liotta
Amanda Peet
Alfred Molina
Clea DuVall
Rebecca De Mornay
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Phedon Papamichael Jr.
Edited by David Brenner
Production
  company
Konrad Pictures
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s)
  • April 25, 2003 (2003-04-25)
Running time 90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $28 million
Box office $90,259,536[1]

Identity is a 2003 whodunit-style horror film directed by James Mangold from a screenplay written by Michael Cooney. The film stars John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Alfred Molina, Clea DuVall and Rebecca De Mornay.

While it is not an adaptation of the 1939 Agatha Christie whodunit novel And Then There Were None (which was adapted for feature film in 1945, 1965, 1974, 1987 and 1989), the plot draws from the structure the novel first popularized in which 10 strangers arrive at an isolated location which becomes temporarily cut off from the rest of the world, and are mysteriously killed off one by one. The first several scenes also use a reverse chronology structure.

Plot[edit]

A convict introduced as "Malcolm Rivers"—who was abandoned at a motel by his prostitute mother as a child—awaits execution for several vicious murders that took place at an apartment building. Malcolm's psychiatrist, Dr. Mallick, has discovered his journal that may explain why he committed the murders. With this late evidence brought forth, a new hearing takes place.

Meanwhile, ten strangers find themselves stranded in the middle of a torrential rainstorm at a remote Nevada motel, run by Larry Washington. The group consists of an ex-cop limousine driver, Ed Dakota; Caroline Suzanne, an actress popular in the 1980s; Officer Rhodes, who is transporting serial killer Robert Maine; Paris Nevada, a prostitute; newlyweds Lou and Ginny Isiana; and the York family, George and Alice, and mute 9-year-old son Timmy. The Yorks are in crisis because Alice has been struck by Ed's car. With both ends of the road completely flooded, the group prepares to spend the night; however, they quickly find there is an unknown murderer present, killing off each of the guests. Caroline is the first to be killed. Ed, finding her severed head in a clothes dryer, thinks Maine killed her; when they check the convict, they discover he has escaped.

All the others become worried, and Ginny flees in terror to her room. Her husband Lou chases after her but is also murdered. Maine runs through the hills, only to be dumbfounded when he finds himself back at the motel. He enters the diner, where Ed and Rhodes jump and beat him into unconsciousness, putting Larry on guard duty. However, Maine is later found dead. Paris discovers a dead body in Larry's freezer, which is revealed to be the real hotel manager. Larry attempts to escape in his truck, claiming he did not kill anybody; he accidentally runs over George, killing him.

Each body is accompanied by a numbered room key, the order of which suggests a countdown. The survivors tie Larry up, and as he tells them his story the others start to believe he really did not kill anyone. Subsequently, Alice is discovered to have died from her injuries. Ginny and Timmy die when their car blows up, but their bodies are nowhere to be found. The remaining four discover that all the bodies have disappeared and that all ten share the same birthday; Ed realizes that all ten names are linked to US states (Caroline being the Carolinas, Lou Isiana being Louisiana, etc.). Paris discovers that Rhodes is actually a convict as well; he killed the corrections officer transporting him and Maine cross state and assumed the cop's identity. Rhodes attempts to kill Paris, but she is saved by Larry, who hits Rhodes with a fire extinguisher, only to be shot and killed by him.

Back at the hearing, the contents of Malcolm's journal are revealed, indicating Malcolm suffers from an extreme case of dissociative identity disorder, harboring ten distinct personalities. Mallick is able to bring forth one of Malcolm's personalities, Ed... thus revealing that all of the events happening at the motel are concurrently occurring inside Malcolm's mind. Each one of Malcolm's personalities is represented by one person at the motel. Mallick explains to "Ed" that the events at the motel are a result of treatment Malcolm is receiving—i.e., the killings at the motel are Malcolm's mental attempts to eliminate his nine excess personalities. Mallick further gives "Ed" the mission of making sure that the hostile personality (i.e., the one responsible for Malcolm's committing the crimes for which he is being tried) is eliminated to prevent Malcolm from being executed.

Back in the motel setting, Ed believes Rhodes is the murderer, and the two shoot each other to death, leaving only Paris alive. When Mallick demonstrates that the homicidal personality is dead, the Judge decides to place Malcolm in a mental institution under Mallick's care.

In the final scene, Malcolm is driven in a van, along with Mallick to the institution. In Malcolm's mind, Paris has driven away from the motel to her hometown in Frostproof, Florida. As she tends an orange grove, she discovers the room 1 motel key, and finds Timmy behind her. Timmy, the true homicidal personality, had orchestrated all the deaths at the motel, and made it appear that he had been killed as well; he finishes his task by killing Paris. Now driven only by Timmy, Malcolm strangles Mallick and then attacks the orderlies and the van driver, forcing the van off the side of the road.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

All filming was undertaken in the United States. Some took place in Lancaster, California and other places in Los Angeles County, while the majority was shot on a sound stage at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City.

Reception[edit]

Identity has a rating of 62% on Rotten Tomatoes out of 169 reviews.[2] It scored 64 out of 100 on Metacritic, indicating a "generally favorable reviews".[3]

Film critic Roger Ebert wrote upon the film's release, "Altogether, there are 10 guests. One by one, they die. Agatha Christie fans will assume that one of them is the murderer--or maybe it's the clerk...I think it is possible that some audience members, employing [my] Law of Economy of Characters, might be able to arrive at the solution slightly before the movie does."[4]

Mick LaSalle of SFGate reported, "At first, Identity seems like nothing more than a pleasing and blatant homage (i.e. rip-off) to the Agatha Christie-style thriller where marooned guests realize that a murderer is in their midst ... we've seen it before. Yet make no mistake. Identity is more than an entertaining thriller. It's a highly original one."[5]

The Village Voice's Dennis Lim wrote of the film's premise, "The premise of the one-rainy-night thriller Identity seems like mothballed Agatha Christie," and of the film's third act twist, "The ultimate cliché of plot-twist implausibility, the crucial revelation is so outlandishly fatuous it might have given Donald Kaufman pause. But there's nothing self-parodic about Identity—the viewer must not only swallow the nullifying third-act bombshell but actually re-engage with the movie on its new, extremely dubious terms."[6]

Brian Mckay of eFilmCritic.com wrote, "This film's cardinal sin was not that it had an engrossing but extremely far-fetched setup to a lackluster resolution - a resolution that probably sounded good during the initial script pitch, but which nobody realized was going to be such a misfire until the production was already at the point of no return. No, what Identity is guilty of most is bad timing - it simply gives away too much, too soon. At about the halfway mark (if not much sooner), the film's big "twist" will finally dawn on you (and if it doesn't, they'll end up coming right out and saying it five minutes later anyway). And once it does, you will no longer care what happens afterward."[7]

The film was a box office success as it grossed over $90 million worldwide on a $28 million budget.[1]

It was nominated for Best Action, Adventure or Thriller Film and Best DVD Special Edition Release at 30th Saturn Awards, but lost to Kill Bill Volume 1 and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, respectively.

References[edit]

External links[edit]