We've all seen the strange previews with Jennifer Lopez donning a wardrobe of strange outfits, and exploring a world that goes beyond anything in ours. This is The Cell, a movie about a serial killer who has gone into a permanent coma, yet he still has a victim stranded somewhere in the state, still alive but dying slowly in a cell that is filling with water. The FBI Agent searching for the victim realizes that the only choice is to go into the mind of the serial killer, and he can only do that with the help of a child therapist trained to do just that.
The world created by director Tarsem, who previous to this had only done music videos, is, to say the least, visually stunning. The blend of normal and slow motion shots, strange colors, and beautiful, psychedelic scenery make for a perfect rendition for a psycho's mind, if minds could ever be visually transmitted. At times the coloring seems a little undone (where detail would have been preferred), but overall the movie has the look of a serious and well done music video.
It's the concept and story that need work. Sure, it sounds good on the surface, a, as one critic put it, Silence of the Lambs meets The Matrix blend, but the concept and theme of the story is saving the person within. You see, Jennifer Lopez's character believes (and actually sees) the innocent child inside the mind of the killer, and so in the end the movie isn't about saving the victim as much as it is about saving the innocence of the killer. Not a good move. Not only does it make sympathy for the villain, but it basically takes away all blame. And it takes out most of the suspense. This movie should have been about Jennifer Lopez going into the mind of the killer, and that killer plays games with her (trying to kill her at the same time), giving her clues to the whereabouts of the victim, but still urging her on, deeper and deeper into his psychosis. Now doesn't that sound better?
The movie is creepy, but only in a childish way. Too much time is spent between Lopez and one of her patients that is stuck in a coma; I think a different approach would have been better. There is a lot of suspense in the movie, but it is all from fearing something is going to jump out. There isn't much suspense surrounding the stories or the characters; I never felt very concerned that Lopez or Vaughn were in any sort of danger. The ending is equally unimpressive. While Lopez "battles" the killer, Vaughn hunts down the victim, and there isn't much question whether he's going to find her or not. Some movies might be smart and let the victim die at the end, but The Cell doesn't even hint at it.
The Cell is visually impressive but needs a lot of work in other places. Vaughn seems about as fierce as Matthew Broderick in Godzilla. Lopez does a decent job but needs to flaunt her sexiness more in this otherwise sexy movie (that means no nude scenes for Lopez). The direction of the film also needs work.
I was really looking forward to this film, and maybe that's why I am so disappointed, but I am still disappointed. The Cell is not what I thought it was going to be, and, unfortunately, it isn't anything I want it to be.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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