Film / Identity

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Identity_7891.jpg

"As I was walking 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"

Identity is a 2003 psychological thriller starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet and Ray Liotta.

Malcolm Rivers is a psychotic killer awaiting execution for the grisly murders that took place at a motel. His psychiatrist Dr. Mallick finds a new piece of evidence: a journal that may explain what actually happened that night and could exonerate Malcolm of the murders. With this evidence in hand, a new hearing takes place in which Dr. Mallick must persuade the Judge to spare Malcolm.

Meanwhile, 10 strangers arrive by chance at a motel run by the manager Larry Washington in the middle of the Nevada desert, each with their own agendas. The ten strangers are a limo driver (Ed Dakota) chauffeuring an 80s TV star (Caroline Suzanne), a cop (Officer Samuel Rhodes) transporting a convict (Robert Maine), a prostitute (Paris Nevada), a pair of newlyweds (Lou and Ginny Isiana), and a family (George, Alice and Timmy York). When bodies begin to pile up one by one with little explanation, the survivors must discover what connects them in order to save themselves from their fate.

This movie depends on a major Twist Ending. Proceed with caution.


This film provides examples of:

  • Alien Geometries: The desert.
  • Arc Words: "Who am I speaking to right now?"
  • Badass Longcoat: Ed Dakota sports a black trench-coat.
  • Batman Gambit: The killer tricks one of the guests into getting hit by a truck by standing directly in its path. His mother is similarly manipulated earlier by luring her into the road with an affectionate hand gesture through the window glass.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Timmy only has two lines in the whole movie. Timmy is the killer, and his brief bit of dialogue confirms this.
  • Bookends: The film opens with a recording of Dr. Malick's session with Malcolm Rivers, where he tells the doctor the "man going up the stairs" poem. At the very end, Timmy, Malcolm Rivers' only remaining personality, forces Malcolm to murder Dr. Malick, and whispers the poem just before the screen fades to black.
  • Children Are Innocent: Timmy horrifically subverts this.
  • Closed Circle: Initially it's a conventional example, with the roads blocked by flooding and the phones and radios down because of the storm, but later becomes a little weirder (see Going in Circles below).
  • Contrived Coincidence: At first the birthday reveal seems this way. Adding to the fact that all the names come from U.S. states, it turns out There Are No Coincidences.
  • Creepy Child: Timmy.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:Roger Maine took an entire baseball bat down his throat.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: It appears that Ed has managed to kill Malcolm's murderous identity while sacrificing his own life and leaving only one survivor, making the movie seems like a Bitter Sweet Ending. But then it turns out that Ed had killed the wrong person, his sacrifice was in vain, and the murderous identity was still alive to kill the Final Girl while causing Malcolm to kill one of the psychiatrists.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: The suicide of the Mexican girl that Ed fails to stop is what causes him to leave the LAPD.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Ed Dakota is The Hero with dark eyes, dark hair, dark clothes and a Dark and Troubled Past to top it all off. In fact, he's the most heroic and moral of all Malcolm Rivers's alter egos.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ed; he is a John Cusack character, after all.
  • Deuteragonist: Dr. Mallick is essentially the hero of the second plot. Mallick spends the movie working to save a damaged soul from the monster he has inside of him, and thus save him from the death sentence that monster earned for him. In a way, he's the hero of the whole film since, in essence, he's also trying to save all the characters in the central plot, who are all aspects of his patient's fractured psyche. He actually manages to positively influence the more moral identities against the homicidal one. Not that it does him much good.
  • Dirty Cop: Officer Rhodes shows signs of this, due to his brutality of Robert Maine and his interrogation with Larry. As it turns out, the real cop is found dead in the police car's trunk.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The entire plot consists of a massive build up to who the murderer will be. Upon reaching the happy ending, it turns out it was the kid all along, and the viewer is treated to a hilarious montage that involves a grumpy looking kid walk away from an explosion and an obese maniac talking in a high voice.
  • Downer Ending: All of the other personalities are dead, leaving only the killer personality to take over and force Malcolm to strangle the therapist.
  • Dull Surprise: You'd expect a bigger reaction from John Cusack after seeing the decapitated head of Caroline in a washing machine.
    • It makes sense later, though, when his Dark and Troubled Past is elaborated on and you find out he's very used to seeing horrific things.
  • Dwindling Party
  • The Ending Changes Everything: None of the people at the motel are real. They are only the figments of Malcolm Rivers' imagination, each of them a separate personality of his mind.
  • Enemy Within: The entire treatment is set up to deal with this.
  • Enfante Terrible: Timmy committed all the murders.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Everyone, that is, except for the true killer.
  • Everyone is a Tomato: About two thirds into the film, it's revealed that every single character at the motel is a personality of Malcolm Rivers, and the whole movie was a plot to kill off his alternate identities, curing his Multiple Personality Disorder.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The movie is set in one rainy night, and the next morning.
  • Fake Pregnancy: Ginny confesses to her new husband that she lied about being pregnant immediately before he is murdered.
  • Faking the Dead: The killer manages to elude the remaining guests this way, until the very end.
  • Final Girl: Subverted. At the end it seems like Paris is the only one who made it... but then Timmy shows up to violently kill her with a rake.
  • Flat "What.": Ed's reaction when Dr. Malick tells him that he is one of the split personalities of Malcolm. As it turns out, he wasn't kidding.
  • From Bad to Worse: The situation escalates from stormy weather and car accidents to grisly murders and vanishing corpses in just a few hours. It is no wonder the characters are all so on edge.
  • Going in Circles: What happens when one character tries to escape the hotel on foot.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: This seems to fit Larry, at first, given the way he treats Paris from the moment they meet. It definitely fits with Timmy at the end.
    • Malcolm Rivers qualifies, as well, since he is Larry and Timmy. This aspect of him is derived from his mother, who would abuse him when he was a child and abandon him in motel rooms while she was out working as a prostitute.
    Malcolm Rivers: I remember my mother... I remember my mother... I remember my mother was a whore...
  • Hell Hotel: All the characters are stranded at a motel in the middle of nowhere that no one can leave. Then people start dying...
  • The Hero Dies: Both Ed and Paris, being the main heroic characters themselves, were killed in the end.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Ed reaches this point when he discovers that he was never a real person but a split personality made up in the mind of a crazy person. And so are all the people he's met throughout the film.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Ed pulls a Taking You with Me against Rhodes to save Paris. Too bad Timmy's the real murderer.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Paris Nevada.
  • Hope Spot: They think they have things solved and under control a couple times.
  • Hostile Weather: By the time everyone arrives at the motel it is dark and storming.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Ed Dakota describes how he failed to stop a suicide, and it caused him to crack up and leave the LAPD. As he describes it, the girl planning to kill herself gave Dakota the perfect opportunity to save her: She asked him for something worth living for. Dakota froze for just a moment, unable to think of anything, and the girl jumped.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: "Antigonish" by Hughes Mearns, as shown in the page quote.
  • Kill 'em All: By the end of the film, every split personality in Malcolm, except Timmy, is dead.
  • The Killer in Me: The ultimate goal is to eliminate Malcolm's killer personality.
  • Light Is Not Good: Timothy York wears all white and exudes Children Are Innocent. He's the monstrous killer everyone fears.
  • Little "No": Paris' last word, spoken when Timmy appears wielding a rake and telling her (the only time he speaks in the movie) "Whores don't deserve a second chance."
  • Location Theme Naming: All characters are named after U.S. states.
  • Male Gaze: Paris is subjected to this a few times.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Timmy. When he's not straight-up murdering people with his own hands, he'll trick people into stepping in harm's way so that they get themselves killed.
  • Meaningful Name: Malcolm Rivers. "Rivers" like the divergent multiple personalities that exist in his head, separate and unique streams of life whose rushing currents eventually intersect until they all lead back to the same place.
  • Mental Story: It's presented as being weird events happening in the real world until the reveal.
  • Mutual Kill: Ed and Rhodes kill each other this way in a gunfight, with Ed himself dying after talking to Paris.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ed gets hit with this hard when he tells Ginny and Timmy to flee the motel in a car, only for the car to explode when they get in.
  • No Body Left Behind: One of the major clues that something is off happens when the bodies of the victims up to that point completely vanish. This is because none of the people at the motel are real.
  • Not Helping Your Case: When Rhodes accuses Larry of being the killer, he responds by holding Paris at knifepoint while babbling that he did not kill anyone.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Played straight when Ginny's boyfriend goes from frantically pounding on the door to sudden total silence.
  • Obviously Evil: Robert Maine. Too bad he's not the killer.
  • Oedipus Complex: Rivers's mother was a prostitute, and one of his personalities is as well - and most of the male characters find her very appealing.
  • Off With Her Head: The first victim's head is found in one of the laundry dryers.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with Larry who shares the same first name as the actual motel owner.
  • Ontological Mystery: All the guests are trapped in the motel during a bad rainstorm that flooded the roads and knocked out the power lines, ensuring that no one can leave or call for help.
  • Psychological Thriller
  • Psychopathic Man Child: This is ultimately all that remains of Malcolm Rivers/Timmy York.
  • Rabid Cop: Officer Samuel Rhodes.
  • Red Herring: Numerous examples.
    • The B-Plot is set up as being related to Roger Maine, until Malcolm Rivers shows up and the proceedings begin.
    • The hotel is supposedly on an ancient Indian Burial Ground.
    • Nearly every character is set up to be the killer except for the actual killer.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: At a certain point, Ed decides that the safest bet would be for the surviving characters to just get in the car and try their luck in the storm, since people keep dropping like flies at the motel and no one knows who to trust. This plan goes out the window as soon as someone gets in the car and it explodes.
    • Rhodes drops all pretenses and goes to murderous lengths to escape once he realizes the others know what kind of person he truly is and, naturally, peg him as the killer.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Timmy kills both his parents over the course of the story.
  • Significant Birth Date: A group of seemingly unrelated people are slowly being killed off while trapped at a remote motel during a storm. At one point it's revealed that every single one of them have the same birthday, which simply doesn't seem possible. This is because they're all imaginary identities of a man with multiple personality disorder.
  • Split Personality Takeover: After his treatment all of Malcolm's alternate personalities are gone... except for the single psychotic one.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: The usual formula is played with in that there are two unrelated killers.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: With an actual mirror. The Reveal was done using a pretty slick editing technique. Ed Dakota picks up a mirror, sees Malcolm Rivers in the reflection, and drops it in shock only for the camera to pan back and reveal Malcolm.
  • Unflinching Walk: The killer pulls one off when the vehicle that Ginny and Timmy run to explodes.
  • The Voiceless: Timmy. He makes sniffs of sadness when Larry and Rhodes were arguing with each other, was shocked to find his mom dead in her deathbed, and spoke to Paris before killing her.
  • Vorpal Pillow: How the killer finishes off Alice York. Played slightly more realistically since he uses hands instead of a porous pillow, and Alice was already seriously injured in a car accident.
  • Wham Line: "It's your birthday next week? My birthday's next week."
    • Also, "Where the fuck is my face?"
  • White Shirt of Death: Ed himself at the end.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: After going through hell and surviving the night, it seems as if Paris is the only one left alive. She's able to finally leave, and returns to her hometown to start a new life for herself. Then she finds the last room key...
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: At the end, when it looks like Paris made it out alive as the final survivor, Timmy came out of nowhere to kill her.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Identity