ID:A starts off with what feels like a very familiar cinematic predicament. A woman awakes with amnesia, to find herself laying in a river, wounded, with nothing but the clothes on her back, and a duffel bag. She makes her way to the nearest town, and finds a hotel room to hole up in whilst she tries to make sense of what has happened. She looks in the duffel bag for clues, but instead finds a surprise. A very large amount of cash.
The woman is in France, and speaks French, but discovers she is, in fact, Danish. Whilst travelling to Denmark she also discovers, through sheer fortune and unlikely coincidence, that her name is Ida, and she is married to a famous classical singer. At first she hides her amnesia from her husband, but realising she is being followed, she hires a private detective, and tells her husband the truth. That’s when things really get weird.
The idea of a film centering around a character with no memory of their life always sounds exciting, with a wealth of storyline potential, and room for great creativity. The reality never really lives up to this. It’s very difficult to offer a satisfying resolution. More importantly, a character with amnesia is very boring. Stripped of personality, they have very little to say, and their backstory is, by necessity, drip-fed to both them and the audience. When this isn’t done well, or is done too slowly, it can be painstaking. That is very much the case here.
Bizarrely, Ida ends up discovering revelations about her husband’s past that she hadn’t even been aware of before her memory loss, before she manages to remember how she ended up in her current state, rendering the amnesia as little more than a narrative device. As the plot gets going, we learn about an extremist terrorist group, criminal activities within Ida’s own family, and a link to a well-known politician. Her links to theses elements are all either accidental or coincidental, and in the end, it turns out many of the key events of the storyline are a step removed from Ida – she is merely a bystander to a very complex situation with a long history behind it.
When we do finally get to see the events that preceded Ida’s accident in flashback, the action kicks in, and we finally get a measure of excitement. Car chases, shootouts, and murder abounds. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to care about any of the characters. Ida is the heroine, but whilst she has clearly had a hard time of it, it turns out she hasn’t done herself any favours. We care about her out of a basic feeling of human sympathy, but have very little reason to care about her specifically.
ID:A is definitely a little bit different from your typical American thriller. It is, though, still very ordinary, and ultimately has very little to offer. Offering idle curiosity rather than intrigue, and a functional finale rather than a satisfying conclusion, there is very little to recommend. There are so many ordinary thrillers in the English language, why bother with one where you need to keep an eye on the subtitles? Scandinavian crime is certainly in vogue right now, with The Killing and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo et al, but movies like ID:A are only going to serve to dilute this current popularity.