As we close in on October 31, AiPT! will be reviewing and recommending various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
Of all the genres, thrillers are probably the best for twists and turns. Distracting the audience or simply changing course suddenly is something that can happen with these films. The trouble with providing a good thriller with unexpected twists can often be finding something that hasn’t already been tried. Knowing that, I am very impressed when one comes along that completely throws me for a loop and takes me by surprise. Identity does that, the way in which it brings about that big twist is masterful, which is why I consider it one of the best thrillers ever made.
The plot involves a group of strangers of all types who end up stranded at a motel during a bad storm. As Cusack’s character says at one point during the film: “People started dying” and as the different characters start biting the dust the question is who and why. Now from just that much, it sounds like a lot of the usual thrillers. I’m here to tell you that there is so much more to this interesting story, most of which I simply can’t reveal due to spoilers.
So putting the fabulous plot twists aside, what else makes this thriller such a satisfying watch? Well for one thing, the cast and their performances are all pretty damn great. Amanda Peet is the one that shines the brightest in my opinion. She very much embodies this role, and she portrays her character (who’s a hooker) in an empowering light, which is refreshing to see. Peet’s character is front and center through much of the film and I believe that was a great decision because of the strong way in which this character is played. John Cusack is also good in his role, and is also a pivotal character in the story. And Ray Liotta is good at playing the type of character he plays here and is another good fit.
The script and direction the story goes is very original and inventive. The pacing builds in a well timed manner that keeps you wanting to know more about what’s going on and who you should trust. The setting is perfect for the kind of film this is; it gives an overhanging feel of dread. Much of the thrills here are psychological in nature, therefore, it’s necessary to set up a proper atmosphere, which this film manages to pull off.
With all of these positives I’ve gone on about, could there be any negatives? There’s really just one thing that I didn’t think worked that well. Rebecca De Mornay’s character was kind of contrived and I was off put by the way she portrayed her role. I realize her character is supposed to be bitchy and off putting, but I felt the portrayal was extremely stereotypical in nature. Other than that, there really wasn’t anything else that I had a negative reaction to.
This is a very original, inventive exercise in psychological thrills. It’s supported by strong performances and a pacing that keeps you guessing until the surprise end. If you love this genre, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t love this film, especially if you’re tired of seeing run of the mill/recycled plots.