Identity


Directed by: James Mangold
Written by:Michael Cooney
Starring: John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, John Hawkes, Alfred Molina, Clea DuVall, John C. McGinley, William Lee Scott, Jake Busey
Released: July 31, 2003
Grade: A-

Identity may or may not make sense but it’s definitely an absorbing film.  As the rain pelts down, the cautious George (McGinley) is driving on the highway with his wife Alice and step-son Timmy.  Their car strikes a shoe on the road and a tyre is punctured.  As George fixes the tyre, his wife is struck by a fast moving vehicle.

Paris (Peet) is looking to escape the lights of Vegas and as the sun sets, she drives along the same highway in her convertible.  Fumbling in the backseat for something from her luggage, a few items of clothing spill onto the road.

Fresh from walking off the set of her last movie, B-grade actress Caroline Suzanne (Rebecca De Mornay) is on the road with her driver Ed (Cusack).  When her mobile phone battery goes dead, she demands Ed grab a fresh battery from her handbag.  He takes his eyes off the slippery road for just a split and strikes a woman at high speed.  Things are coming together…

Still in shock and full of remorse, Ed can find no immediate way to help the badly injured Alice.  No mobile phones are working so they all drive in search of help.  They find a run-down motel run by Larry (Hawkes) but the phone lines there are down also.

Leaving George at the motel to care for Alice, Ed gets directions to the nearest hospital and sets off to find medical assistance.  On the way, he comes across Paris, whose car has crashed into, and knocked down, a telephone pole.  After rescuing her from the driving rain, Paris tells Ed the road has flooded up ahead and there’s no way through.  Ed continues on regardless and his car becomes bogged.

Picking them up are a young married couple, Lou (William Lee Scott) and Ginny (DuVall), who inform them that the road behind has also been washed over by the flash storm.  The only option is to retreat back to the hotel and wait out the night.

As the guests check into their room, a police officer (Liotta) pulls up with a man in chains (Busey).  He’s transferring the inmate between prisons but has also been left stranded.  He handcuffs the prisoner to some steel pipes in his motel bedroom before offering assistance to the injured Alice.

There’s no coincidence in these characters coming together.  One by one they are slain (most in brutal fashion) and fingers are being pointed.  Suspicions fill each of their minds but the disturbing atmosphere has clouded their thoughts and judgements.  Who is this killer and why is this happening?

The answer to these questions are surprisingly complex.  You wouldn’t think so judging from the standard trailer but there’s more to this film than you’d expect.  An hour after leaving the cinema, I’m none the wiser as to whether the pieces do fit together but thanks to the power of the internet I can soon check the thoughts of other equally confused viewers.

There’s a funny anecdote doing the rounds at the moment that in almost every movie in which he appears, John Cusack is rained upon.  The rain machines were in full force here as it buckets down non-stop for the entire movie – it provides a good setting.  Cusack is the star performer of the large cast but credit also to Amanda Peet (The Whole Nine Yards) in a role that continues her rise through Hollywood.

The conclusion is rushed but I’m willing to forgive writer Michael Cooney because there are so many positive aspects to his screenplay.  There are sudden twists (as you’d expect) but in a pleasant change, they are supported by a plausible story (as you wouldn’t expect).  How easy it can be to mistake one’s true “identity”.