Identity (2003)

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Released 10-Nov-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer
Alternative Version-Theatrical Cut or Extended Version
Audio Commentary-James Mangold (Director)
Audio Commentary-Michael Cooney (Writer)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Starz On The Set: The Secret Behind Identity
Deleted Scenes-4, with optional commentary
Storyboard Comparisons-3
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-THIR13EN GHOSTS, Darkness Falls, Hollow Man
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 86:21
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:43) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By James Mangold
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring John Cusack
Ray Liotta
Amanda Peet
John Hawkes
Alfred Molina
Clea DuVall
John C McGinley
William Lee Scott
Jake Busey
Rebecca De Mornay
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Alan Silvestri


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Italian
Arabic
Bulgarian
Croatian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Romanian
Russian
Serbian
Slovenian
Swedish
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

As I was going up the stair
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today
I wish, I wish he'd go away.

    A suitably cryptic quote from this most cryptic of films. I have in fact agonised over exactly what to put in the plot synopsis for this film for quite some time. When I saw Identity at the cinema some months back I came out thinking to myself that should I get this disc for review I would probably not put very much into the plot summary lest I risk spoiling what is a good story with a really neat twist at the end. But if I put nothing it will sound really boring, so I'll try to offer what little I can without giving anything away.

    In this well crafted and beautifully executed psychological thriller/horror tale from director James Mangold (Kate and Leopold; Girl, Interrupted), we are actually treated to two twists. There's a large 'pull the rug out from under the viewer' style twist (the screenwriter's description there), followed in the last thirty seconds of the film with another smaller, but equally satisfying twist. You certainly can't complain about not getting value for money here, and while the twists are not quite to the scale offered by those of something like The Sixth Sense, they still reward the patient and observant viewer with a chance to solve something before anyone else watching it with you can - a classic whodunit style of plot if you like.

    In a nutshell, a man convicted of murdering six people is about 24 hours away from execution. A last minute stay of execution might be possible because the man's doctor (Alfred Molina) has discovered some new evidence that may indicate his patient is not of sound mind. The race is on to convince the District Attorney that this evidence is real and somehow the death sentence can be commuted. In a parallel storyline that will have significant bearing on the case, ten strangers gather at a motel in the middle of the desert during a torrential rain storm. All are brought to the motel run by a weaselly little man named Larry (John Hawkes) by a series of improbably strange, yet seemingly connected events. Ed Dakota (John Cusack) is a limo driver, hauling around a B-grade starlet in Caroline Suzanne (Rebecca De Mornay). Ed accidentally drives into Alice on the wet road causing her serious injury. Her husband George was changing a flat tyre caused by an errant shoe lost by prostitute Paris (Amanda Peet) as she was driving along. With the injuries to Alice serious, George and Ed race her to the motel seeking help and a phone. But the lines are down, so an alternative escape is needed. In trying to drive to a distant hospital, Ed meets newlyweds Ginny (Clea DeVall) and Lou (William Lee Scott) on the flooded road, who advise him the roads are all blocked by the rain and they are effectively trapped, so they head back to the motel. When police officer Rhodes (Ray Liotta) arrives at the motel transporting a prisoner, Maine (Jake Busey), the strangers think they might have a chance of rescue, but Rhodes' radio doesn't work in the wet. Ten strangers, one seriously injured, all with secrets, and none of them able to leave. The stage is set for something interesting to happen.

    What follows is a murder tale right out of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. Ten strangers at a motel, and one is a killer. One by one the guests start dying in horrible circumstances. But is that it? Is this just another by-the-numbers murder mystery tale where we try to guess the identity of the killer before the director intends to tell us? All these strangers share something in common. But what is it? And what is their connection to the man about to be executed? Watch and enjoy an extremely satisfying film that will keep you guessing to almost when the end credits start to roll.

    This is a top rate DVD package from Columbia Tristar. Superb video and audio, coupled with a bunch of nice extras including two quality commentary tracks and a really neat menu system, make this one of the better releases this year. Read on for all the details.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    A recent big-money film deserves a pristine transfer and I can say this gets one very, very nice transfer indeed. In fact, it is easily one of the best I have seen this year. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is extremely sharp and well defined, with heaps of minute detail being seen. There is not a single trace of edge enhancement anywhere. Shadow detail is perfect and with almost the entire film taking place at night, that is an absolute must. There is no grain and no low level noise. This really is a clean, fresh image that makes watching it a joy. Special mention must be made of the use of the full widescreen panorama to capture some of the action. Often characters will appear at both extreme left and right sides of the screen, allowing the viewer to effectively edit the film themselves (as discussed by the director in his commentary). The effective use of focus pulls to add a whole new dimension and depth to the action also deserves special praise. All up, this is a very well photographed film.

    The colours are superbly rendered if perhaps a little bleak and subdued, despite the relatively low light of the sets and predominant night-time action. Whenever a bold colour pops up, like the red of the motel sign or the yellow of the prisoner's uniform, they are richly rendered without being oversaturated. Skin tones are perfect.

    I saw no MPEG artefacts. There is no aliasing present and there are no film artefacts of any note which is always pleasing.

    There are plenty of subtitle streams available. I sampled the English variety during the commentary and found them more than adequate for the job.

    This is a single-sided, dual-layered disc that is RSDL formatted. The layer change occurs mid-scene at 66:43, but at such a quiet and still moment you will barely notice it.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are five audio tracks available, with three being Dolby Digital 5.1 efforts in English, Italian, and Russian. The selection is rounded out by not one but two Dolby Digital 2.0 English commentary soundtracks.

    The main Dolby Digital 5.1 English soundtrack is a ripper. Look up the word enveloping in a dictionary and I reckon there will be a reference to this film. There is an absolute cacophony of sounds and the surround presence created around the viewer does not let up for basically the entire film. You are placed right in the middle of the torrential downpour which essentially lasts for the duration of the film. You almost think you are going to get dripped on, it is so unrelenting. It is a truly superb, enveloping and aggressive soundtrack and is among the best I have sampled for a long time. The only problem encountered was a slight dropout at 82:02 on the extended version only. This is the point where the seamless branch occurs (see Extras) and the switch has been handled a little clumsily here. We have been advised by Columbia Tristar that this fault has been rectified on the retail version.

    Dialogue is fantastic and there are no audio sync problems.

    The musical score is by the renowned mood composer Alan Silvestri. It is quite haunting at times, evoking the loneliness of a isolated location, and while it is at times quite minimalist in its delivery there is still enough to make you jump on occasion.

    The surround channels rarely get a moment's rest. If it's not the rain and the drips, it's thunder or any matter of thuds and screams as things go awry at the motel.

    There's plenty of subwoofer use too, with a car crash and other bumps and jolts using the low end of the audio frequency. It is seamless and well defined and adds plenty to the listening experience.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    This would be the best set of themed menus I have seen on a disc this year. Themed around the creepy motel where most of the action takes places, they really lend themselves well to the story about to be told. A work of art is probably the best way to describe them.

Dolby Digital Trailer

Alternative Version

    Now this is interesting. After selecting 'play movie' from the main menu, you are presented with two choices. You can either watch the normal theatrical version which clocks in at 86:21 minutes, or you can watch the extended version which is a whole 1.12 longer at 87:33 minutes. From what I can tell (and based on the pauses in the director's commentary), the additional footage is included via seamless branching and is contained in an extra 1:04 minutes from 16:30-17:34 where the scene cuts to the DA's offices where the lawyers are discussing the appeal and in the closing scene. The last four to five minutes is a little different in delivery with a few extra rapid edits thrown in. The outcome of the film is still the same (and no, I am not going to say any more).

Audio Commentary - James Mangold (Director)

    An entertaining and highly informative commentary by director James Mangold. It is screen specific for the entire duration of the film. Mangold warns you in the opening minutes that he is going to spoil the plot early on, so he assumes you have already watched the film. He offers more than just the usual casting and shooting anecdotes, talking about the soundstage used for most of the production and some of the really interesting transitions and story-telling devices he used to hurry the pace along. It's worth noting that the commentary does not work during the extended scene at the end of the film. For the last four or five minutes before the credits roll you will need to be watching the theatrical version to pick up the commentary. All up, this is worth a listen for sure.

Audio Commentary - Michael Cooney (Writer)

    Another entertaining commentary from the writer, Englishman Michael Cooney. He is incredibly enthusiastic about his work, starts off with a self-deprecating joke about screen-writers, and then proceeds to recount just how the script idea came to him, how it was developed, how it differs from what appears on the screen, and a whole host of other anecdotes. Fun, informative and entertaining.

Featurette-Behind The Scenes

    Unfortunately with a title like Starz - On The Set, you know pretty much what this is going to consist of. It didn't disappoint. 14:31 minutes of film highlights and on set interviews with some of the cast and crew all stating how wonderful the story is and what drew them to work on it. Same old, same old.

Deleted Scenes

    Four deleted scenes with optional commentary from director James Mangold. Running times vary between 0:57 and 2:48. Two of the scenes had a slight comedic slant to them and were deleted for pacing purposes. The longest scene is an extended version of the scene which made the final cut.

Storyboard Comparisons

    These are the usual rough storyboard to final screen comparisons that show in separate windows on the screen. Three scenes are shown, these being "Lou's Demise" (3:26), "George's Death" (0:38), and "Rhodes Backstory" (0:33).

Theatrical Trailer

    This is one tricky film to make a comprehensive trailer for. We only get a 58 second teaser effort, which is quite understandable as the makers couldn't give away too much. This trailer succeeds in all aspects - it whets your appetite. Presented in 1.85:1 and complete with 16x9 enhancement and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. A good effort.

Trailer

    Three trailers for other Columbia Tristar titles. We get Thir13en Ghosts (1:50), Darkness Falls (1:50), and Hollow Man (1:27). Again, all are presented in 1.85:1 and with 16x9 enhancement and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Filmographies-Cast & Crew

    Selected basic filmographies only for three of the cast (John Cusack, Ray Liotta, and Amanda Peet) and two of the crew (director James Mangold and writer Michael Cooney)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 disc misses out on:

    A clear win to the Region 4 disc makes a nice change, unless of course you have a need for the pan and scan version (why I don't know - you will miss an awful lot of this film with that option). The commentary track by the writer is really quite entertaining - he's quite a character from the sounds of it.

Summary

    Identity is a true gem in a sea of bland, by-the-numbers psychological thrillers. While the plot may not be the most original in the thriller genre, the actual delivery coupled with a really smart and deliciously presented twist make this one of the most enjoyable and highly satisfying films I have seen in a long time. I was still thinking about all the things I had seen the next day and just couldn't shake the uneasy feeling it left with me. It messed with my head, mum!

    The video is exceptional. It is basically of reference standard and a joy to view.

    The audio soundtrack is a ripper, and enveloping to the point of complete soundfield emersion. I thought I was getting rained on at one stage.

    The extras are comprehensive and worthy of inclusion. The whole package reeks of quality, right down to the exquisitely themed menus.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Friday, October 17, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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Comments (Add)
One of the best thrillers of all time - Geoff (read my bio)
There IS a commentary on the Region 1 disc! - Paul
RE: There is a commentary on Region 1 - Rodney
Lack of French Soundtracks - Fred McFrench
French S/T - Tsargrad (My Bio)
French Sountracks - Jace
Brilliant - Johnny Wadd (i am bionic)
The plot goes way over your head, ala Fight Club, but DVD value, ala Donnie Darko - commentary x 2 - Loose Tongue