on November 24, 2012
A social worker (Jennifer Lopez) enters the mind of a comatose serial killer (with the help of new experimental technology) to help FBI agents find his latest captive before time runs out.
The Cell was released in 2000 and marked the feature film debut of director Tarsem Singh (Immortals). Upon its initial release, many critics charged that the film was all style and no substance. I disagree with that. The film contains both, but the story/script/acting is a little underwhelming in the first half when compared with the bold and vividly nightmarish special FX and dreamlike atmosphere of the second half of the movie. Still if you don’t over think things and allow yourself to soak in the darkness and striking visuals, the film can make for a disturbing and thrilling experience. The films costume design, cinematography, soundtrack and make-up are all fantastically unique as well.
The DVD release of The Cell offered a nice collection of special features including an enthusiastic audio commentary by director Tarsem Singh. Since this Blu-ray release of the film is from Alliance, it doesn’t come as a surprise that no special features are included, not even a menu screen. The movie begins playing as soon as you pop the disc in.
While The Cell makes its Blu-ray debut with great video and audio, it’s a bare-bones release that offers no supplemental material. For the price, I recommend this one for diehard fans of the film, but if you already own the DVD, I would wait to upgrade until The Cell makes its way onto the Blu-ray format with a better overall package. For the record I would rate the film a 4/5 and rate this release from Alliance a 3/5.
on October 20, 2007
Roger Ebert called it one of the best films of 2000, and I'm more than inclined to agree with him. While the film is extremely disturbing at times, the depth it sinks to is commensurate with the heights to which it rises. A visually spectacular project tainted only by the typecasting and tabloid stardom Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn have been subjected to since its release. A film well worth seeing, albeit not for the faint at heart.
Imagine if you could use VR technology to enter the mind of another person... but if you lose your way, you will be imprisoned there. When it's a serial killer, things get nasty.
That's basically the entire plot of "The Cell." Tarsem's debut movie is absolutely stunning visually -- filled with color, sinister magic and spellbinding set pieces -- and he gets some decent performances out of Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn, but it also suffers from an ugly "feel sorry for the woman-torturing psycho" undertone that throws it off balance.
Psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) uses a VR machine to enter the minds of coma patients, so she can try to wake them from within. But then the police capture serial killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio), and he conveniently lapses into a coma from a rare medical condition. Unfortunately, he's also hidden away his final victim in a tank that is slowly filling with water, and they only have a short time to find her.
So Catherine enters the warped wonderland of Carl's mind, and begins to witness both the horrors and the hint of his... well, literal "inner child." As she tries to protect his innocent side, she becomes trapped in Carl's mind. FBI Agent Novak (Vince Vaughn) enters the dreamscape to free Catherine, so she can deal with Carl once and for all.
First, "The Cell" is a truly gorgeous piece of work. Visually, this movie grabs your eyeballs and never lets go -- the brilliant colors, the swirling fabrics, the otherworldly sets and the eerie dreamlike visuals. These are the surreal, strange things that we see in our dreams, given richness and visual depth. Even the ugly, grotesque scenes are captivating in their use of color and light.
Unfortunately, this is not all about Tarsem's direction. Mark Protosevich's screenplay also has some truly ugly overtones. One of the characters is basically a guy who was abused as a child, and so he's become a woman-murdering psycho who gets his jollies by torturing them to death and masturbating over their corpses. His inner world includes women tied in barbed wire, tied to torture chairs and docilely brainwashed in collars -- in other words, everything is about hurting women.
Are we supposed to loathe and hate this character? Nope, we're meant to see him as an innocent victim of his own demons, and empathize deeply with him. No mas.
And frankly, Tarsem's visuals are all that keep this movie afloat, despite some bafflingly pretentious use of Catholic and/or S&M imagery. The plot is thin as a wafer and almost as crumbly -- the idea of entering a killer's mind and trying to find his victim is cool, but it's painfully slow and oddly detached. Not to mention kind of clunky (the nursery rhymes and cutesy in-jokes like "Mr. E").
I loathe Jennifer Lopez as an actress, but I have to admit that she does a very decent job here, while Vaughn gives a subdued, sober performance as a detective determined to save Carl's final victim. The biggest problem with trying to make us sympathize with Carl is not Vincent D'Onofrio's performance, but the shallowness of the character -- we see nothing OF him but his serial-killerness, so it's impossible to care about his poor wittle inner child.
Tarsem's intoxicatingly lovely direction and visuals are the only draw in "The Cell," an otherwise shallow and irritating thriller that wastes its cool premise. Skip this in favor of "The Fall."
on April 30, 2008
I recently saw this rather disturbing film, and it is also very interesting, scary, and shocking. It is almost twisted and dark if you plan on going into the mind of a serial killer. And, it is most certainly like going into the world of surreal and twisted sense of reality to which you have to break through to find the answers. Personally, I think this movie is an interesting look at one's twisted mind to which there are two "selves:" a wounded child (inner self) and an evil predator (false self).
While I think the acting on Lopez's and Vaughn's parts were good considering, the story and the depiction of how the mind works when a inner self was suppressed and a false self took over was very interesting and it has some harsh truth to it: it can happen in real life where one do not have control over oneself.
"The Cell" is a great title for this movie as it shows a prison for that inner self (a wounded child) while the false self controls everything.
It is really good film to watch, in my personal opinion.
on August 30, 2007
wow.what a great film.this movie has everything.it'visual style is
amazing.great colours.it has a very dark tone at times,and is very
disturbing,and even sick and twisted.it's basically about a serial
killer who kidnaps women and tortures them ,both psychologically and
physically.there's bit of twist on the usual plot of movies in this
genre.suffice it to say that the F.B.I discovers one victim recently
kidnapped who has a very short time to live.in order to find out where
she has been taken,they turn to a women named Catherine Deane(Jennifer
Lopez) who can enter the mind of the psychopath(Vincent D'Onofrio)
through a kind of virtual reality and get the information they need.how
and why does she do this and will it be in time to save the girl?you'll
have to watch it to find out.as i mentioned in my summary,this movie is
very disturbing.the psycho,D'Onofrio is mesmerizing.he oozes evil and
cruelty.this is a truly astonishing performance.Vince Vaughn plays one
of the F.B.I agents on the case.i've never seen Vaughn in a serious
role.who knew he could act?he's very credible in his performance. Lopez
is OK in her role,but to me,she's not in the same league as Vaughn and
D'Onofrio(at least in this movie.she gets to preen and look pretty and
pouty.this movie doesn't move at a break-neck pace.for the most part,it
is a psychological drama,but it is very compelling.the last 20 minutes
or so,the suspense is ratcheted up.there is some definite depth to this
film,to be sure,but it also beautiful to look at.this is one of the
best films i have seen in some time.for me "The Cell" is a strong 4.5/5
on June 4, 2004
The dark, bleak inner world of serial killer Carl (Vincent D'Onofrio) Stargher's mind is a bizarre labyrinth of horror and mystery. It also holds the key to finding Carl's latest female victim, before it's too late. Psychologist, Catherine (J-Lo) Deane is part of a team that has the ability to transfer a person into the mind of another. Catherine must enter Carl's head and travel through it's dank halls and passages, in order to help the FBI find the poor girl he's stashed away in a hidden dungeon. You see, Carl puts his victims in a plexiglass tank, drowns them over the course of 40 hours, and bleaches their lifeless bodies. Unfortunately, Carl slipped into a deep, irreversible coma, just as the feds moved in on him. Now, it's up to Catherine to make contact with Carl's inner self and get the information that will save his latest prey. Catherine is both gentle and strong, as she battles the insane beast that has manifest itself in Carl's mind. She befriend's Carl's "inner child", a terrified little boy, constantly on the run and reliving past tortures at the hand of his sadistic father. Can Catherine gain the boy's trust and get him to tell what he knows, or will the beast-man get them first? An excellent psycho / supernatural chiller, THE CELL is a haunting, beautiful creep-fest! Give it a look...
on April 13, 2004
THE CELL is one of the most visually arresting movies of the recent decade, rich in kaleidoscopic, Dalian imagery, and some beautifully arranged vistas. However, all this technical wizardry can't elevate Jennifer Lopez's wimpy performance. Yes, the woman is beautiful, and she photographs better than any beautiful actress in some time. But, Jennifer seems too inhibited to let her inner beauty outshine the outside. While she smiles and cries effectively, these emotions don't seem to be coming from her. Vincent D'Onofrio, a brilliant actor, gives a typical psychotic performance, but it is mind-numbing all the same; Vince Vaughn seems to be giving his audition for Norman Bates, but in actuality, he's better in this than he was in the remake of PSYCHO. Marie Jean Baptiste, an actress of worthy merit, is lost in the script, with only Jake Weber as Vaughn's periplectic partner, giving a performance of any nuance.
THE CELL is visually delightful, but emotionally void; however, it is a trip while you're with it. Doesn't leave you feeling much afterwards, though.
on September 14, 2003
"The Cell" has been dissed as a surrealist makeover of "Silence of The Lambs." The films do have similar plots, but director Tarsem Singh's visual style renders "The Cell" worthy of consideration on its own merits. Jennifer Lopez does a good job in the heroine role, and Vincent D'Onofrio is impressive in portraying different extremes of the same bad guy. You can't help but feel for Vince Vaughn's FBI agent, who gets dragged into some maximum freakocity in his efforts to find and rescue the killer's next victim.
If you really wanna play the "derivative" card, look no further than "Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Warriors."
My advice, specific to this DVD: 1) Use the "Script-to-Screen" feature. You can see that the finished product is tighter and more effective than the original form of Mark Protosevich's script. 2) Don't bother with Tarsem's audio commentary; he sounds like Apu on stimulants. Plus, as another reviewer noted, Singh basically confesses that the look of the film is more important than its content. 3) Try Howard Shore's isolated score. He also did "Lambs," but "The Cell" has a stronger, more chaotic soundtrack.
With those caveats, the film does some things very well. The visual style is amazing, especially inside Carl Stargher's skull. The skip-frame work and film speed changes give the whole thing a dreamlike feel. While the film is not an indictment of child abuse, its most powerful scene for me is Stargher's childhood agony under his father's roof. It is a difficult minute to watch. In an early scene, the adult Carl is walking through his kitchen with the imprint of a clothing iron on his chest. Later on, we learn how that got there. I juuuust about had to put a chair through the TV screen.
Another amazing visual trick (just before the showdown) is the gold/floral border that surrounds Catherine and Child-Carl. It doesn't quite remain fixed in place as the camera moves between the two characters, and it makes the scene look as if it's in YOUR dream, rather than onscreen.
The DVD has some good knicknacks, the sound and picture transfer are top-notch, and the movie is a visual feast. With deeper character development, you'd have about another fifteen minutes and a more powerful film. Still, this is Jennifer Lopez' best work since "Selena." I refuse to call her J-Lo until I hear people calling Ben Affleck B-Aff.
on August 7, 2003
This is a movie that, for obvious reasons, has gone overlooked/under appreciated by far too many people. For one, having Jennifer Lopez in the star role probably attracted the wrong audience for this film -- don't bother watching it if all you're interested in seeing is J-Lo in a tight outfit. Secondly, this isn't really a see-it-once-and-get-it-all type of movie, which is unfortunately what mainstream hollywood thrives on.
Yes, the basic plot is fairly simple and has been done before (detective must go into the mind of a serial killer, taken to a new extreme), but at this point pretty much every narrative film made is based on a plot which, at its core, has been done before. And yes, some of the acting is rather mediocre, but the crucial parts are, for the most part, spot-on. J-Lo truly surprised me with her acting when I first saw this.
Where this movie really shines is in its cinematography. The visuals are *amazing*, but it doesn't end there. Almost everything you see has quite a bit of symbolism attached to it, and this symbolism remains cohesive throughout the film. From pop-culture references (the set from the scene where Carl discusses his trauma and his first kill is taken from REM's video for "Losing My Religion", which had the same director as this film) to amazingly subtle internal symbolism (a nursery rhyme is sung several times which makes a connection between children and mares, which gives meaning to the scene where a live horse is split into several still-functioning but disconnected pieces in the mind of the schizophrenic Carl).
This movie takes a lot of thought and attention to truly appreciate (I've watched it at least 10 times now), but it's entirely worth it.
on May 28, 2003
I do not go to the movies that often. In fact, the last film I saw at the theater was "The Blair Witch Project" in 1999. I hate the crowds, the noise, screaming kids, and the rip-off prices of everything from the tickets to the concessions. The advent and subsequent expansion of DVD players is a godsend to someone like me. I can watch whatever I want in the comfort of home, and since I have a great sound system, the movies always sound great without attaining the eardrum shattering levels at the movie theater. But a funny thing happened since I quit frequenting the theater, namely the explosion of special effects and its substitution for things I always took for granted in a movie: a well executed and interesting plot, engaging characters, good acting, and clever scripts. This does not always happen, as some films do manage to use effects without sacrificing those things that make a great film. I thought "The Lord of the Rings" did a great job of blending characters and effects. Unfortunately, "The Cell" is a prime example of the new Hollywood philosophy of sensory overload over substance.
One presumes there are real people in "The Cell," as I recognize Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D'Onofrio, Vince Vaughn, and Dylan Baker from other film projects (Check out Baker in "Happiness," a performance that will surely stay under your skin for a long time). These people move, breathe, and occasionally speak just like real people. Regrettably, that is about all they do here because the film buries them and any attempt at a plot under an avalanche of special effects. It doesn't help when you see that the director of this movie made his bones with music videos, which becomes quite apparent as the film unfolds.
"The Cell" tries to be a psychological drama/thriller. Lopez plays a child psychiatrist/psychologist involved in a radical new method of therapy. By putting on a rubber suit that looks a lot like the space gear worn by Keir Dullea in "2001: A Space Odyssey," Lopez undergoes a technique allowing her literal access to the minds of her schizophrenic patients. This is all good and well until we see the other events unfolding in the film. A serial killer with a penchant for hooks and chains named Carl Stargher slips into an irreversible coma minutes before an FBI agent played by Vaughn captures him. The feds learn about the work Lopez does with young mental patients and rushes Stargher to the laboratory where she works. This is critical because Stargher recently abducted a young woman and stashed her away at a remote site. The authorities must learn of her location before Carl's homemade killing device kicks in and dispatches the helpless lass. Needless to say, Lopez accepts the assignment and enters the comatose mind of Carl Stargher, where she discovers a twisted world of horrors ruled over by the "bad" Stargher. If only she can find the innocent "good" child Carl once was, she just might accomplish her mission and help Vaughn and company find the girl. A subplot about trying to bring patients into Lopez's mind instead of vice versa plays out in the conclusion, whereas another thread that hints at a possible romance between Lopez and Vaughn goes nowhere.
The special effects are good here, with special kudos for the opulent costumes worn by D'Onofrio and Lopez as the two grapple in Stargher's mind. Another memorable scene with a horse is sure to stand out after this movie ends. It is really too bad that the rest of the film has the potential to induce a coma in the viewer as deep one of Lopez's patients. The acting, for the most part, is bad. Lopez is so stiff you could iron clothes on her, which is surprising because I recall she did a good job at the thespian thing in "Selena." Vaughn slouches through his part as the tormented FBI agent, with bags under his eyes that are so big he would need to check them at the airport. Even D'Onofrio, an actor who usually has great range, fails to plumb the depths of his character and is largely reduced to spasmodic twitchings in a wig that looks like it was bought at a Fab Four convention. At least there are some good gore scenes in "The Cell," unsettling scenes that do help move the story along. But good effects and good gore are not enough to displace the deep deficiencies of "The Cell."
I have probably made "The Cell" sound worse than it really is. I could stand to watch it again if I was so inclined and that does say something positive about it. At least the extras on the disc are plentiful. There are deleted scenes, a couple of commentaries by the director and the effects team, an empathy test (!), a map of the human brain with detailed descriptions about the various functions performed by that organ, and some nifty stuff about the costumes. In short, "The Cell" has more downs than ups, but ultimately does achieve a measure of interest.