All involved do a decent job. James Mangold keeps the suspense turning to a fair degree, although there are never fully any scenes that keep one breathlessly on the edge of the seat bar one good jump where a car comes by and casually swipes the mother away. Michael Cooney does a decent job in putting the script through a series of constant twists that keep hinting at secrets behind everybodys motive. The film has a good cast line-up, with John Cusack, who since emerging as a 1980s Brat Packer has smartly recast himself in the 1990s as a sly ironist in intelligent, off-the-centre stage roles, solidly acquitting himself as the hero. There is fine support notedly from Amanda Peet, a scene-stealing Rebecca De Mornay and Mangold regular Pruitt Taylor Vince, whose amazingly twitchy eyes has had him typecast in these psycho roles and who plays the part here with a surprising degree of sympathy.
If that was all that Identity was, it would be merely a competent and above average psycho-thriller, albeit not a remarkable one. Maybe, if nothing else, Identity might have had it over its contemporaries due to its sheer lack of teen horror movie formula the characters are not self-absorbed beautiful people; there is a refreshing lack of genre irony and in-referencing about the film (at most one character gets a scene comparing the situation to Agatha Christies oft-filmed Ten Little Niggers/Indians ); and James Mangold and Michael Cooney concentrate on solid dependables like character and suspense.
For once, Identity is a film whose effect is carried almost entirely by its script. There is a twist that comes maybe 20 minutes before the ending and it was this that proved to be the films selling point. It is a genuine left field surprise certainly one, even though advance word had warned one that there was a surprise in store, that I never guessed and one that turns everything on its head. It is a surprise that also sits between the genuinely jolting and the ever-so-contrived. There is very much the sense that the film has conducted this because Identity wanted to throw its parcel in with the body of what one might term Conceptual Reversal films of recent years the likes of Open Your Eyes (1997), Dark City (1998), Fight Club (1999), The Sixth Sense (1999), The Others (2001) and The Village (2004) films that conduct way-out surprise reversals that eventually reveal that everything that has been happening has been a virtual simulation, or the characters are dead or imaginary.
The particular twist conducted here works well and one is jolted out of their assumptions but beneath it there is also something that feels manufactured about it. (One may also question why, after the revelation of the artificiality of scenario, the film then returns to continue playing out the various pieces of suspense happening within the situation as though it were still real). There seems a forced determination upon James Mangold and Michael Cooneys part to dazzle their audience with their cleverness. This is something that is apparent from the opening and their showoffy means of introducing the various characters in an elliptical non-linear way a la Pulp Fiction (1994). The upshot is that they do succeed; it is just that sometimes the effort of their trying to do so shows through.
(Winner for Best Original Screenplay, Nominee for Best Actor (John Cusack) and Best Supporting Actress (Rebecca De Mornay) at this sites Best of 2003 Awards).