An old-school thriller pumped full of tension, Identity rarely breaks new ground but is an entertaining film nonetheless.
Ten strangers all become stranded as the same motel and then one by one are murdered with the identity of the killer unknown. Although the set-up for the film is rather obvious it does a good job of setting up the movie and drawing the audience in through a series of quick and interconnected flashbacks showing how each character arrived there.
Then when everyone is there the fun begins as it becomes a classic ‘whodunnit’ movie with gore, intrigue and lots of twists and turns. It is a tense film that has a surprising amount going for it even if the final twist is rather obvious.
In an ordinary film it is important that the audience has a character to back, a hero to root for. One of the beautiful and most enjoyable things about Identity is that this character doesn’t exist, every one of the people trapped in the motel is shown to be horrible and dislikeable in one way or another. This means that when it comes to guessing who the murderer it could literally be any of them, leading to true edge of your seat viewing.
Identity is thoroughly enjoyable thriller which whilst entertaining offers little more than cheap thrills.
Love and Mercy is a film showcasing the troubled life of Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson from two very different periods in his life. It is a dramatic film that gives a thoughtful insight into both mental illness and creative genius in a unique way.
When a person has had a life like that of Brian Wilson there are obviously many, many stories that could be used in a biopic. The most obvious way of making such a film would be to tell each story chronologically as it happened. This is the standard approach to biopic and is one that generally works well. Love and Mercy opts to take an entirely different route to the biopic and instead of spoon-feeding Wilson’s entire life to the audience, focuses on two contrasting moments of his life allowing the audience to fill in the gaps of what happened between, before and after.
The first of the two stories (which play out simultaneously) follows a young Brian (Paul Dano) in the height of the Beach Boys fame. This Brian is youthful, energetic and just wants to make music – particularly the best album ever. This Brian works hard and is obsessed with the creative process as we see him in the studio creating Pet Sounds whilst also trying to escape from a troubled relationship with his father.
The second story comes later in the 1980’s and shows us an older Brian (John Cusack) who is recovering/still suffering from mental problems. This Brian is erratic and filled with mood-swings and constantly watched over by the ominous Dr. Landy (Paul Giamatti). This Brian meets Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) and a romance blossoms; however Melinda soon starts to realise that there is a darker side to Dr. Landy and his interest may not be only be for Brian’s health.
The two stories are so entirely different in tone and story that they shouldn’t work together. Cutting from an emotional sequence between Cusack and Banks to Paul Dano goofing around with dogs in a music studio for example should be jarring to watch and distract from the stories. But somehow it doesn’t and only adds to the depth of each. This has to be mainly attributed to the quality of the team behind the film and the performances of the lead cast.
The oddness and contradictions between the two stories is what makes this film entertaining as whenever you are watching Dano’s Wilson you can’t wait to see Cusack’s again and vice-versa. This serves only to make each half more dramatic and more interesting as the film progresses. The fact that the film only chooses these two moments of Wilson’s life is also greatly to its benefit as we are left with intrigued to go out and research the full story (which only gets more and more interesting).
The soundtrack to the film is strangely crafted, but in a beautiful way as Atticus Ross mixes Beach Boys tracks together (and some vocals by Paul Dano) into a weird almost psychedelic arrangement that matches the tone of the film wonderfully. He has later stated that the Beatles ‘Revolution No. 9’ inspired him and the similarities with this are clear. Throughout the film you hear pieces of a lot of Beach Boys songs but never a complete version in a wonderful tribute to the band.
Love and Mercy is a wonderful biopic that allows the stories to speak for themselves. It is a unique look at a troubled life that benefits from not taking on too much.