Thanks to the likes of The Killing and Borgen, Scandinavian thrillers are the in thing at the moment. However these bursts in popularity for particular bits of world entertainment mean an awful lot of stuff gets released hoping to cash-in on the phenomenon, whether it’s top quality stuff or not. ID:A definitely feels like it come from the second rank of Scandinavian thrillers, despite the presence of Oscar winning director Christian E. Christiansen and Lars Von Trier’s Zentropa producing.
The movie opens with a woman waking up in a French river, with a scar on her stomach but no memory of who she is or how she got there. Adopting the name Aliena, she tries to work out who she is and soon becomes aware that mysterious heavies are looking for someone with her description. When she works out she could be Danish, she heads north, finding a clue on the way when she recognises the voice of famous opera singer Just Ore.
This realisation sets off a chain of increasingly dark events where Aliena discovers the truth of who she is, as well as the murder, brutality and fear that led to her ending up in the river in the first place.
It’s very difficult to make an amnesia thriller that doesn’t seem hackneyed. The Bourne films managed it by making the character’s memory loss essentially a sideshow to the conspiracy theories and the balls-to-the-walls action. Here it’s all about the amnesia, which is okay but does start feeling slightly cheap when you realise that it’s more a plot device than anything absolutely essential. Indeed its main job is to make the thriller seem more interesting and innovative than it actually is, as without it much of the story would seem rather silly.
That’s not to say it’s all bad though, as the film moves along at a fair clip and the amnesia storyline does keep you watching to find out who the woman is and what happened to her. The story gets ever darker and things become increasingly deadly when we go into extended flashback to find out the violence and abuse that resulted in ‘Aliena’ falling into the river. The film has fun playing with our ideas of who characters are, but it starts feeling a little tired and the characters end up making less and less sense, eventually resorting to using increasingly grisly violence in place of a plot that actually seems to have grown organically.
ID:A does have one very rare and welcome thing, a gay character whose sexuality is relevant but who could quite as easily have been straight. It’s largely presented as something that just is and nobody has much to say about it, which is surprisingly rare, especially in the thriller genre.
It’s an okay movie, but anyone hoping for the filmic equivalent of The Killing will be disappointed. In fact it has more in common with Hollywood product than the slick Scandinavian dramas BBC3 has been drooling over.
Overall Verdict: Amnesia is a surprisingly difficult thing to make work on film, with ID:A showing that without care and an extremely tight, strong plot around it, it can seem a tad cheesy.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac