The Cell

The Cell takes you into the
mind of a psychopathic, serial killer

Mankind has always been fascinated with dreams. That part of every human’s life where they can lose or gain control of everything around them. Many movies have dealt with the dreamstate. There was Dreamscape, where a man could enter another’s dreams and interact with the dreamer. The Cell takes this premise to the next quantum level. What if you were able to enter a dream as a social worker and you were asked to go into the mind of a psychopathic, serial killer? This is the fundamental premise of The Cell.

Jennifer Lopez plays Catherine Deane, a childhood social worker with a rare talent to be able wotk with a device created by a group of scientists that permits the user to enter the dreaming mind of another. Funded by a billionaire, whose young son is lost in a comma, Catherine is approached by an FBI agent Novak (Vince Vaugh) to go into the mind of a serial killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio). It seems that Stargher kidnaps young women, stores them in a tank, which slowly and automatically fills with, water until they drown. He then bleaches them to look like dolls and, well it is enough to say the rest is so sick that Hannibal Lecture would be proud. Just before his capture, Stargher has a psychological break and is left in a dreamlike trance. Problem is he just got his latest victim and unless they can find out where she is, she will drown. It is up to Catherine to probe the sick fantasy world of Stargher’s mind to find the answers.

Jennifer Lopez is surprisingly good in The Cell. The director and scripts provides a means for Lopez to exhibit or fledgling acting talent rather than just be a beautiful body around for show. Lopez approached this role as a serious matter, a film whose plot is multifaceted and extremely complex. While most of her part occurs in the dreams of others we see in Lopez’s performance some depth to Catherine. I look forward to other films by Ms Lopez. As for D’Onofrio, few actors do psycho as well as he does. (well, there is Gary Oldman but D’Onofrio is up there). As the serial killer, Stargher, D’Onofrio is stunning. His performance will make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up and will make you look in the shadows for awhile after seeing this film. That famous face of Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket has come back and it is a frightening as ever. The pre-dream view of Stargher that D’Onofrio provides is completely unsympathetic. A monster in human form. The dreams open the mind of this inhuman creature to let the audience view what made him that way as well as why he does what he does. It takes a premiere talent like D’Onofrio to pull this off in a believable manner. Its ironic that Vince Vaughn, the star of the remake of Psycho, is the FBI agent that is responsible for tracking down psychos. He brings more than I anticipated to The Cell. Vaughn displays a control of his character that adds to the realism of the role and the film in general.

The director of The Cell, Tarsem Singh (who now goes solely by the name Tarsem) has taken on a lot for his freshman effort.. The challenge here is to combine three distinct genres successfully, the time running out crime drama, horror and Sci-Fi. He does so again better than I thought. The trailers for The Cell intrigued me when it was released to theaters. It looked extremely interesting. Yet, I read many reviews that called it a very long music video. This was believable since Tarsem started as a director in music videos. In fact, the set that he had constructed for R.E.M.s ‘Losing my Religion’ is seen in one of the dream sequences where Stargher is killing his first victim. Much to my surprise, Tarsem does manage to tell an insightful tale that grabs the viewer from the first frame and hold your attention. It just goes to show you that reviewing a movie is a personal opinion and you should be guided not controled by any review. (This one included). Tarsem appears to be the kind of director that like to control things. The story line moves at a go clip, never dragging on and never trying to cram too much into to short a time. He is one of the young directors to watch, potentially up there with M. Night Shyamalan and P.T. Andersen. Tarsem takes risks and that in itself makes for interesting cinema.

The Cell disc is extremely well done. I would have preferred the more encompassing sound of DTS in this film but the Dolby 5.1 is well mixed, not pushing the audio field but rather using it to help along the story. The video is near reference quality and presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic. The extras include some multi-angle looks at the special visual effects and commentaries but the director and effects crew. There is even an isolated sound track. Forget what you heard about The Cell and try it for yourself. You may just find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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