The Cell


Directed by: Tarsem Singh
Written by:Mark Protosevich
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D’Onofrio, Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Released: November 16, 2000
Grade: B-

Um, where do I start with this one?  There is a serial killer on the loose in California who is killing his victims through excruciating torture.  They are locked in a watertight tank for 40 hours until it floods with water and its inhabitant perishes.

There is a detective named Peter Novak who is trying to track down the killer.  The body count is increasing and subtle clues are being left - he knows the killer wants to be caught.  Sure enough to clues lead to the house of Carl Stargher and Novak has his man but due to heavy trauma, Stargher lapses into a coma from which he will never awake.

There is a young lady by the name of Julia Hickson who is missing.  Novak knows Stargher was behind her kidnapping but the whereabouts of her and the tank remain unknown.  The only person who can answer both questions is Stargher but he will never speak again and the clock is ticking.

Finally there is child psychologist, Catharine Deane.  For 18 months she has been part of a secret project trying to help a young boy awake from his own coma.  Through complicated technological advancements, she has travelled through his mind trying to unlock the mysteries that keep it traumatised.

As the pieces fit together, Deane is recommended to Novak as the solution to his problems - she could search Stargher’s mind for the location of the tank.  Fraught with danger, this will be like nothing like Deane has experienced before.  She will traverse the mind of a serial killer...

One wonders how writer Mark Protosevich managed to put this movie on paper.  It is remarkably complex and relies on heavy computer imagery and illusions to create the effect of being within one’s mind.  Director Tarsem Singh deserves credit for providing one of 2000’s most original films.  From the opening credits, nothing is certain and what lies behind the next bend is never known.

Whilst intriguing, The Cell never seems to take the next step.  The premise is interesting but too much time is spent outside rather than inside Stargher’s mind.  Many supporting characters appear to be going through the motions with predictable actions and dialogue - they’re just distracting puppets in the main show.

Plenty of discussion has been preceded The Cell from the United States with critics calling it everything from “one of the best films of the year” (Chicago Sun-Times) to “an awfully generic variation on the overworked serial-killer genre” (New York Post).  All I can suggest is to look deep and make up your own mind.  That is of course, if someone hasn’t already looked there first.