Retro Review: The Cell

Ever imagined what it would be like to step into the mind of a madman? I know I haven’t.

“The Cell” focuses primarily on Jennifer Lopez’s character who is a matriarch of an experimental lab that can connect one single being with access to a patient’s subconscious. This access allows Lopez to see the patient’s dream-like world and thus allows her to uncover some of the things plaguing the patient.

Her first patient is a millionaire’s son lost in a coma. Unbeknownst to Lopez, a serial killer (Vincent D’Onofrio) has an aneurysm and his latest victim has not been found this brings Lopez on a journey into the killer’s disturbed mind in search of the victim. Along for the ride is an FBI agent desperate to find the victim he is played by Vince Vaughn.

“The Cell” has the uncanny ability to slap us literally in the face. The film’s disturbing images will haunt viewers like such images did in “Seven” and “Silence of the Lambs”. These images are then coupled with the ideas of such other movies as “Dreamscape”, TV Series “Sleepwalkers”, and partially “Virtuosity”.

All these films previous are a lot better than the Cell. I often cringed at this film wondering if it ever had grounding or even a moment to really care about its characters. These were the same problems I had with “General’s Daughter” and “8mm” which really bugged me since its visuals were so off the wall. When we step into the killer’s world its like stepping into an S&M rock video that wants to enslave your will to live.

But what was weird is that Lopez never really seems to be stunned even when a horse is severed into at least sixteen pieces. As we continued through the killer’s mind I saw references to the “Hellraiser” series and a lot of its dark visuals.

Don’t get me wrong all these effects and images are done great and I especially loved the costumes and Arabic references but I think the film might have to many weird and different things all at once. I liked Vince Vaughn the best of the leads.

My reason for picking him was the subdued plagued FBI agent is the hardest to play in an obvious over the top gore-sci fi fest as we have here. He is great as he does whatever he must to save the life of an innocent. I am really enjoying this actor and the career he is mapping out. As for the other leads, D’Onofrio portrays a typical chameleon type character who is always deeply disturbed and this really isn’t anything new for him.

And as for the film’s star, Lopez for me was just window dressing and often lacked the emotion required to bring her character out as a human being. That Lopez flaw was seen in a lot of the scenes where she is in reality and trying to talk to Vaughn.

Maybe a lot of the above images were purposely brought out by first-time director Tarsem Singh but I did feel like he stuck a lot to his music video background in the film which can often plague a silver screen experience. An example of that would have to be “Alien 3” which was also a done by a first time music video director named David Fincher. Fincher did rebound with the now classic “Seven”. This does beg the question is Singh going down the same path?

(2 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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