Identity Movie Meaning & Plot Summary

It is not easy to create a thriller with an interesting unpredictable plot that meets all the requirements of our time. James Mangold and Michael Cooney did it back in 2003. Their film Identity, the meaning of which for many is still a mystery, made a splash in the film industry. What makes it so special and memorable? We will talk in detail about the plot and meaning of the film Identity in the article. Identity meaning, summary, film ending

Brief summary of the film Identity

Dr. Malik interviews a maniac with a dissociative disorder who killed 6 people in a hotel.

Late evening, pouring rain. 10 visitors come to the roadside hotel in turn:

  • Actress Caroline Susan with driver Edward. They bring in the woman they hit, Alice, her husband George, and son Timmy.
  • Prostitute Paris, newlyweds Lou and Ginny.
  • Policeman Samuel with prisoner Robert.

All roads are filled. Visitors have to stay at the hotel for the night.


After settling, the guests one by one begin to die at the hands of a maniac. Events develop in the following sequence:

  • First, they kill an actress who left the hotel in search of a cellular network. Her head is found in the washing machine. A prisoner disappears – suspicions fall on him.
  • The quarreling newlyweds run away from the common living room. Ginny closes herself in the bathroom of her room – Lou is stabbed to death by a maniac.
  • The policeman catches the prisoner – he is tied to a chair. Left to guard the criminal administrator Larry departs briefly. The prisoner is found dead with a baseball bat in his mouth.
  • Larry is under suspicion – they find Caroline’s wallet and the corpse of a man in the refrigerator. The administrator tries to escape in a car, but accidentally hits Timmy’s father (stepfather). Larry is tied up.
  • In a dream, Timmy’s wounded mother dies. All the corpses find the key to the room – in descending order, starting from 10.
  • Edward invites Ginny and Timmy to leave – sends them to the car. The car explodes – no bodies are found. The rest of the corpses also disappear. The heroes learn that all the guests of the hotel were born on the same day – May 10 – and have the names of the states of America.

Interesting! The chance of meeting 11 people with the same date of birth in a certain place is 1 in 115 sextillion.

Edward woke up in an office at a round table. Dr. Malik explains to him that Ed and the rest of the hotel guests are fictional characters of a maniac with a split personality, Malcolm Rivers. If the killer person survives, Malcolm will be executed. Edward is back at the hotel again.

  • Paris learns that Samuel is not a policeman, but also a prisoner. Samuel kills Larry and chases after Paris.
  • Edward and the fake cop shoot at each other. Paris stays alive – goes home to grow oranges.

The death penalty is abolished, Malcolm is taken to a mental hospital. On the way, the patient has a vision:

  • In an orange grove, Paris finds a hotel room key with the number 1. Timmy arrives and kills her.

Rivers strangles his psychiatrist with handcuffs. The car stops.

Plot Explanation

Few viewers understood the meaning of Identity (2003) from the first viewing. Diverting attention to the search for a hotel killer does not allow the viewer to see the essence of what is happening on the screen. Closer to the final, it becomes clear that the events at the hotel are unrealistic.

To understand the question of what the meaning of the thriller Identity is, the poem invented by the maniac in childhood and voiced 3 times in the film helps: “I went up the stairs and met a man. He wasn’t there today. I want him to run away.” What really happens to the characters in the movie?

On a note! The “invented” lines by Malcolm are taken from the poem “Antagonish” by William Hughes Mearns. It also sounded in the psychological thrillers “Psychosis”, “Dreamcatcher”, “Father Brown”.

Serial killer Malcolm Rivers was sentenced to death. But his lawyer and psychiatrist believe that the maniac at the time of the crime did not realize what he was doing. By law, such a person cannot be executed.

Malcolm has a split personality syndrome. The events of most of the film related to the hotel take place only in his head. All hotel guests are the personalities of Rivers himself. The patient killed when one of the 11 entities dominated him (Edward, Caroline, Paris, Larry, etc.). Dr. Malik wants to calculate and destroy her during the experiment in order to save the patient from the death penalty. To do this, the psychiatrist designs a situation in which all of Malcolm’s personalities come into conflict. The illusion of a meeting of all 11 entities in the hotel is created.

The doctor managed to prove to his colleagues the insanity of the patient and demonstrate to them the healing process. However, Malik, like the viewer, underestimated the insidiousness of Rivers’ inner world, misidentifying the killer. Who would have thought that the dark side of the criminal would be a harmless silent boy Timmy. The oversight of a professional determined the fate of not only Rivers, but also the psychotherapist himself.

Secret and unknown

The thriller shows the viewer how poorly studied human psychology, his inner world. How many unsolved riddles and secrets are kept in everyone’s head. Any person, just like Malcolm Rivers, can be both good and bad, have positive and negative qualities. It is foolish to be too sure of a complete understanding of another’s soul. So the excessive self-confidence of Dr. Malik leads to the release of a terrible beast from the cage.

The basis of personality is education

The director focuses the viewer’s attention on the consequences of child abuse. Malcolm Rivers was brought up in a dysfunctional family, without a father, with a prostitute mother. He was often beaten, left alone in hotels. Thanks to this, a homicidal maniac with a dissociative mental disorder grew out of him.

It was the essence of a small offended child that turned out to be the most cruel and so strong that it defeated the rest of the characters in the fight for Rivers’ body.

The hidden meaning of the film Identity (2003) is that education is the basis for the formation of personality. It is our parents and grandparents who make us who we are.

What is the essence of the ending

The ending of the picture amazed absolutely everyone. The meaning of the ending of Identity is that in Rivers released from the death penalty, the personality of a maniac won – a small boy, offended by a difficult childhood and cruel treatment of his parents. After that, the patient attacks Dr. Malik, strangling him.

What happens next is a mystery. Presumably, Malcolm will run away and continue to kill innocent people. All positive essences in it are destroyed – there is no more hope for a cure.

The film Identity, the meaning of which is the impossibility of controlling the human subconscious, is a fascinating psychological thriller with an unexpected ending. A twisted plot, a frightening atmosphere of horror and a fantastic game of actors make the project of James Mangold and Michael Cooney unforgettable, unique in its kind.

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