I went and saw the movie Identity today. I had been looking forward to seeing it since I saw the first preview for it a few months ago. You may know that I am a big fan of the movies; I go to one or two a week. The preview for Identity made it look suspenseful and smart. I was very excited to see it today, especially since I had to wait through the first two weekends it was out. So you can understand when I left the theater feeling like I had been totally jerked around, I was a little disappointed.
As the remainder of this editorial will reveal things about the movie that will ruin it for you, I would recommend skipping the rest if you plan on seeing it.
*** SPOILERS ***
Identity began well. At the beginning of the film we were shown several intriguing instances of coincidence and it was very suspenseful. My fiancee and I were making guesses about the identity of the killer and the nature of the connections between the victims. We were getting very into it. There were several grisly murders and there was plenty of mystery to go around. All in all, it appeared to be a normal suspense thriller, written in the tradition of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. It seemed like it would definitely live up to that masterpiece.
So I was quite surprised when, about two-thirds through the film, it was revealed that the entire movie was nothing more than a psychotic episode happening in the mind of a character. The killings in the movie were actually nothing more than a mental patient's way of working through his Multiple Personality Disorder. I felt like I had been betrayed!
When developing a story, writers can fool the audience in many acceptable ways. People can be lead by the nose through a thousand pages of plot twists and come away with a sense of intellectual satisfaction. One example of a film that does this extraordinarily well is The Game. By the end of that film all of our previous assumptions have been totally blown away; it is the proverbial "head trip." Yet we feel quite rewarded by the conclusion, especially if we have figured it out ahead of time. (I didn't.) The reason that The Game works is because, while it does constantly cause us to re-evaluate everything we know, it never violates the basic framework of the story. We always know that we are being messed with.
Identity felt like a cop-out because we entered the theater expecting a thriller. At certain points of the movie we become confused by some supernatural-seeming events that don't seem to fit the overall tone. Are we seeing the handiwork of some incredibly brilliant evil mastermind, or is there magic happening? Finally, after being dragged through the victim's terror and the intellectual challenge of trying to stay one step ahead of the killer, we discover that we have been lied to, that none of it was real in the first place. After having become emotionally invested in these characters, we suddenly find that none of them matter.
Despite the fact that I felt cheated by the ending of the movie, I still don't feel like I wasted my money. For one thing, it was a matinee. Seriously, though, the acting was great and it really was an interesting idea. In fact, had I merely heard about the film and not seen it, I probably would have thought it was brilliant. I just wish the writers had found a more honest way to present it to us.