This review is of the TV-14 edited version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
Identity is a movie with a pretty interesting premise. I’d actually say there was a whole lot of potential here and I do tend to like the premise of getting a bunch of people together and as they all start getting bumped off you have to wonder who the big villain is. There’s a whole lot that you can do with this but unfortunately the film didn’t really take advantage of this. Mainly because it was going really well but there was one twist which really didn’t work out and ended up weakening the experience.
The movie starts out with the viewer seeing a lot of violent crime photos as there was some kind of serial killer but he’s now being put to death. The Judge and some other people have to quickly talk things over though but then we cut away to the actual plot of a bunch of people getting stranded at a motel. You have the owner who is really shady and being super aggressive the whole time. A former cop who works as a chauffer for a famous movie actress. The actress in question is here as well. A family of 3 where the wife got his by the chauffer’s car so she’s in critical condition and the young boy is definitely traumatized. The father is also cracking the whole time as well. There was a girl who tried leaving the area but the road got blocked so she is stuck with them as well. Finally you have a cop who was transporting a murderer over to jail so he stops in as well along with the handcuffed prisoner. All of these people have to try and survive the night at the motel while they wait for the flood to end but slowly they start getting picked off. Who could possibly be doing this!?
So that’s the story premise that I really do enjoy. It’s very much a Clue kind of mystery and most of the characters don’t seem to have much of a motive at first but then all of their stories start falling apart the more the movie goes on. So after that then everyone starts feeling really suspicious which makes it just as hard to find the guilty party, just for different reasons than earlier. As the film goes on you get to really start coming to your own conclusions as well so it’s just a really good match. It’s just hard to get into this without spoilers but the final twist just defeats the entire purpose of everything. I don’t think it was a good idea and I would have played this one straight. It would immediately be way better. Now in part the final twist helps to establish how some of these events could have possibly happened.
It helps in a power scaling sense but I don’t want power scaling right now. I just wanted a really satisfying story with a lot of tension all around. You still get that for most of the film but this takes away that replay value once you know what’s going on from the start here. It changes the whole dynamic of the film retroactively and the payoff for this isn’t great as well. The film does have a horror film type ending as well which can be fun. I mean you do always want to see that but there’s a whole lot of plot convenience going on here. There’s a car scene near the end that makes no sense because nobody in their fight mind is taking such a chance with a dangerous person. The closest analogy I can use is you hear someone knocking on the door so you open it and get one shotted. That’s basically what happens here.
I did enjoy the meanwhile scenes with the judge and other people talking though. It was so random that it was just a bit funny and that actually leads into a very satisfying twist. The first twist in this plot was actually good and that’s why they always say to quit while you’re ahead. If there was ever a time to follow that advice, this was it. For another positive on the film I thought they did a good job with the atmosphere and effects. Everything did look really ominous and dreary the whole time. You felt that motel vibe all the way. Also the film didn’t overdo it with the violence. It could be violent at times to be sure but some of the visuals would be more creepy than over the top. I’d say the photos at the beginning were mainly more violent than the actual murders at times.
So if we ignore the final twist then I still did enjoy all the cat and mouse games. Aside from the motel owner and the prisoner who were both awful characters from the jump, at least the rest seemed decent. The father was going a bit crazy but considering what just happened to his wife I feel like that’s fair. The kid doesn’t do much but he’s a kid so that’s just how it goes. The Chauffer is one of the more mysterious characters but he’s very proactive and always trying to find some clues so you have to give him props there. He’s definitely taking some extra risks there assuming he isn’t the culprit.
Then you have the actress but she’s a bit on the spoiled side and doesn’t really help out a whole lot. Right from the start you figure things won’t go well for her. The lady who was trying to leave earlier is nice enough. She probably tries the hardest to keep everyone together but with the manager always being rather aggressive it can be hard on her. She keeps it together pretty well though so she was one of the stronger characters. Then you have the cop who adds a lot of the excitement to the film. After all he has a gun and isn’t afraid to use it. The guy’s a bit of a loose cannon and so you feel like he could dish out a lot of damage if he finds out who the culprit is.
With so many characters here there are a lot of dynamics to play into. The film is at its best when the characters are all trying to act normal but you can see how they’re starting to get suspicious. Now in defense of the final twist, you do see exactly what they’re going for here. I think it is possible to execute the twist and have a good movie but ironically it works better if you were not enjoying the movie. Or in fact if we knew about the twist from the start. It manages expectations and you can still have a lot of fun there. It just felt really out of place here and seriously hurt the movie’s momentum.
Overall, Identity is a really solid movie for over 80% of its run. It’s not perfect but it was doing well and then things really came to a halt. Ultimately once you know the twist you can try and recover from it, but it just completely changes the dynamic of the title so it’s never quite the same. I’d like to see a remake/reboot of this film but ignoring the last twist and just playing things straight. As the film gradually got weirder and weirder with so many things happening you just get really excited to see how the writers will tie it all together. That’s what I still need and is what would really make the ending a lot more satisfying.