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The Film
What a dark night, that brings together ten unrelated people during a heavy storm in unconnected circumstances, in a motel in the middle of nowhere. The film opens with shots of a detective or lawyer or a psychiatrist looking through a mass murderer’s case file. At the beginning of the film we do not know who this man is nor why he is looking through the file however it starts to become apparent when we hear how the murderer has a hearing the very next day. Then the film cuts to a motel in which the majority of the story takes place and here enters George York (John C. McGinley - Dr. Cox in Scrubs) holding his bleeding wife. The film then cuts back to show how York,  his wife and son get to the motel. This idea continues showing how a few people then are involved in this horrific accident. It isn’t quite Memento, but it’s a mini version of it. So now we know a little bit about a lot of people, and how they have ended up at a motel, in the torrential rain. Each have quite distinct personality traits which each actor magnifies so that it is quite easy to pigeon hole each character after a few lines. However these reactions to each character are created by the director and writer so that they can be changed at a later time. Everyone has something they don’t want the others to see/know about.

Identity

Now we have a group of stranded guests at a hotel, with no communications as the storm has knocked out the phone lines. And that is when they start to die. After the first person dies it brings everyone together for the first time to deal with the situation. One person however is not there – a convict who was handcuffed to a pipe by corrections officer Rhodes (Ray Liota). The search for this convict (played by Jake Busey) begins. And while it continues, the numbers start to dwindle. Strange things start to happen, with a few points that are much easier to understand on a second viewing, with the commentary on. I don’t think many people will get the small pointers as to what is going on, and it is a well told, developing story which is only fully understandable when it is completed – again in that respect it is very much like Memento.

I really enjoyed this. Of course, once it has been seen the main punch has been delivered. So pay attention the first time round as if only watched casually, the experience will be for nothing. A very dark film, with an interesting style this film features a lot of good actors with an intriguing storyline unlike any films I have previously seen. Very original indeed, and while I do not know how it did at the box office, this is definitely worth seeing if you are into your “whodunit” style films. This DVD contains two versions of the film with a theatrical and an extended cut. However do not get any hopes up about the extended cut as we are not talking about Lord of the Rings in terms of added material. The extended version has a whopping one minute of footage extra.

Video
Deep and dark would be the best way to describe this 2.40:1 widescreen presentation. Most of the film is shot with the dark background of night and rain and while the whites can be bright, other colours are subdued. A clean print with a lot of depth, this does the film justice and allows the director to really show his love of rain, lightning and bright lights against darkness. No noise or mpeg artefacts make this a very good transfer indeed.

Identity

Audio
Not so much an action film, but a film with a decent amount of surround usage, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Identity is often used well in its absence. At times when a score might have been used to try and drum up a bit of suspense, here more often than not we find the lack of music adding to the tension. Lightning effects and other off screen activities use the surround field well and vocals are well presented so that even when quiet, they are audible above other effects.


Extras
First up is a commentary track with director James Mangold. After an introduction to himself and the film he does what few directors do, and warns viewers that if they have not seen this film, he will spoil it as he will be talking from the perspective of someone who has seen the film. All by his lonesome on this track, many people would either run out of things to say, start patting fellow work mates on the back, or just stay very quiet. However we are treated to a very interesting track in which many aspects of the story, characters and even technical aspects such as shot framing and effects are covered. Sure there is some back patting, but it is not over the top and therefore seems genuine (I am sure we all remember the commentary on The Matrix) but what makes this a good track is that he helps pick out small pointers towards what is happening that one first viewing, might have been missed.

Michael Cooney (the writer) delivers the second commentary track on this DVD. He starts off with a joke which is interesting as I have not heard that start to a commentary before. He also acknowledges that writers are not necessarily viewed as that important when it comes to films, and he is right. They might come up with the story, but this is often developed by the studios into a vision not often imagined by the writer and then it becomes the studios/directors vision. However he points out that the script was bought and work started so quickly that this did not happen to Identity. I cannot remember the last good writer’s commentary track I listened to – they are often quiet, dull and will little to input which is I guess a result of a developed story which would have had less to do with the writer. He is a pretty animated chap though and whilst he has a few comments on shots he likes he sticks to the story, and does a good job. I didn’t think I would ever recommend a writer’s commentary but there you go – listen to it, after the directors of course!

Stars on the Set is a made for TV feature with interviews and clips from the film. Oddly enough, again this feature is worth while. The actors have decent comments to give and the director and producer have interesting things to say about the film. Not exactly life changing, and of course it is really only PR for the film but its fourteen minutes could have been a lot worse. There are four Deleted Scenes each of which is available with an optional directional director’s commentary. The director explains what is going on in each scene, and why each scene was cut – ideal really for a deleted scene commentary.

Identity

There are three Storyboard Comparisons which show three scenes with the storyboard also present to give an idea of what can be achieved from the original drawings. Not a bad selection of storyboards, however I often find myself comparing them to the Army of Darkness storyboards which were so appalling it is lucky a film was made at all with them. Four trailers accompany the special features showing the films Identity, Thir13en Ghosts, Darkness Falls and Hollow Man. Each is presented in widescreen with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. Finally we are treated to Filmographies of James Mangold, Michael Cooney, John Cusack, Ray Liotta and Amanda Peet. Odd to see that the writers previous film was Jack Frost 2:Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman.

Overall
Originally I was not particularly interested in watching this film however after seeing it I am glad I did. The storyline is excellent (which is odd, coming from the writer of Mutant Killer Snowmen) and the direction of both the scenes and actors crafts a clever and artistic film. A couple of decent commentaries and some deleted scenes are really all the useful extras involved and the inclusion of these make this disc definitely worthwhile. Certainly a film to think about, which when it all is explained really becomes interesting. Thoroughly enjoyable.


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