Identity Review: Full Movie Summery

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A surprisingly decent horror film with a plot that initially looks clichéd but ends up being more innovative than it appears. This is the Full Identity Review.

Identity Review
Identity Review

It’s a dark and stormy night outside. On a lonely Nevada road, a furious thunderstorm rages. A blowout stops a family of three. A passing limousine strikes the father’s wife as he attempts to repair the tire.

Despite the passenger’s complaints, a pampered Hollywood star, the driver transports them all to a nearby motel. Both directions of the roads are washed out. The phone lines have gone down. Others take refuge in the hotel, which is overseen by a strange clerk.

There are a total of ten visitors. They perish one by one. Fans of Agatha Christie will presume that one of them is the murderer—or that the clerk is. Meanwhile, an 11th-hour hearing for a guy (Pruitt Taylor Vince) guilty of multiple heinous crimes is intercut.

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A cranky judge has been summoned for this appeal, and the guy will die unless he overturns his own decision. Alfred Molina, his psychiatrist, comes to his defense.

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We don’t know how these two storylines will meet, but we know they will. In the meanwhile, happenings inside the hotel hold our interest. We recognize the premise.

But the presentation owes more to horror films than to the conventional whodunit. The limousine driver (John Cusack), who claims to be a former officer and appears competent, is among those assembled at the motel. Another officer (Ray Liotta) is bringing a murderer (Jake Busey) in leg shackles.

While his serious small boy (Bret Loehr) watches on, the driver with the blowout (John C. McGinley) gently cares for his critically injured wife (Leila Kienzle).

Identity Review: Full Movie Summery

Identity Review
Identity Review

There’s also a movie actress (Rebecca De Mornay) in Cusack’s car, a hooker (Amanda Peet) on her way out of Nevada, and a young couple (William Lee Scott and Clea DuVall) who recently married for reasons that are still up in the air.

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The motel manager (John Hawkes) finds them all rooms, which are numbered from 1 to 10.

Gruesome events begin to unfold as lightning rips across the sky and power flickers. Of course, I won’t go into detail since you’ll want to be frightened on your own.

Although many in the group assume a crazed killer is among them, the Busey character is the main suspect.

Some of the killings are so strange that it is difficult to explain them—or to know if they are murders or just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It goes without saying that there is an explanation. It goes without saying that I must not even hint at it. I believe that some audience members, using the Law of Economy of Characters, which is so usefully described in my Bigger Little Movie Glossary, may be able to arrive at the solution slightly before the movie.

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But this isn’t the kind of movie where everything is revealed in a sensational final moment. The director, James Mangold, and the writer, Michael Cooney, play fair, kind of, and if you grasp their reasoning.

You can trace back through the film and see that they never actually cheated, even if they were delighted to point to erroneous conclusions.

A film like this is a litmus test for performers. Can they maintain their dignity while crammed in a room where horrible murders are taking place, everyone is yelling and accusing one another, heads turn up without bodies, and bodies disappear—all on a dark and stormy night?

Cusack is the most successful survivor. His character is a competent and responsible individual, despite the fact that everyone around him is losing their minds (sometimes literally) and blaming it on him.

I also enjoyed Peet’s hooker, which implies that she’s seen so many problems that this is just more of the same.

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And there’s something to be said about John Hawkes’ portrayal as a hotel manager, but I can’t tell what without disclosing a secret (no, it’s not the secret you think).

I’ve watched a number of films that are interesting for the first two acts and then fall into autopilot mode with a formula finale.

“Identity” is a rare film in that it appears to be on autopilot for the first two acts before revealing that it was not, with a third act that forces us to reconsider all that has come before. The answer is ingenious, how simple but cunning it is.

Identity Review: Movie Trailer

Identity Review

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