When I watch this movie, the thought that most enters my head is wow, this could have been great. As it is, The Cell is just good.
The premise is brilliant. Jennifer Lopez plays Catherine Deane, a psychologist who specialises in comatose children. New technology has allowed her the ability to enter a child’s mind and treat them from there while their body remains in a coma. At the same time, FBI agents are arresting a serial killer, Carl Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio). During his arrest, Carl is knocked unconscious and slips into a coma. The FBI are still searching for a girl Carl had kidnapped in the past and know they have little time to find her because Carl specialises in booby traps that are set off at a certain time whether he is there or not. They request Catherine’s help to enter Carl’s mind to try and learn the location of the missing girl before she is killed.
This is a visually stunning film. When Lopez enters the mind of a serial killer, it is a scary scene, but visually beautiful. I really enjoyed the creepy vibe let off when the audience enters Carl’s mind. Throughout the film, the audience enters several different minds and each one is so different, yet so well represents their subject. The atmosphere created by the score and visuals is by far the film’s highlight.
The only problem I had with this film is the casting. Lopez tries hard, but she is really not up to a role like this. I give her credit for trying different things though. It would have been so easy for her to just make one generic rom-com after another, but she takes risks as an actress and she is to be applauded. While she is not great in her role as a psychologist, Lopez does okay. My biggest problem was Vince Vaughn as the head FBI agent on Carl’s case. This was one of his earliest roles and it is very difficult to take him seriously. He does not have the range as an actor to own this role as someone else might have. D’Onofrio is great in his dual role as a serial killer in the real world, and as the lord of his mind in his own astral plane.
I really wanted to like this movie more than I did. An average cast lets this film down a lot. I’d have loved to see what could have been achieved if they hadn’t cast the pop culture flavour of the month and an up and coming comedic actor in the lead roles. The Cell is visually stunning, and has a really enthralling and captivating story. It is a shame the cast lets those great aspects down a little bit.
I’ve been going back and forth over whether I like The Cell or not. On the one hand, it’s visually stunning and serial killer stories are one of my guilty pleasures. On the other hand, this movie takes an interesting idea and nearly ruins it through mediocre execution.
The concept of The Cell is intriguing: a psychologist (Jennifer Lopez), who uses new technology to enter the minds of comatose children to communicate with them, is asked to help rescue a serial killer’s next victim when he unexpectedly enters into a coma. While the scenes inside the killer’s mind are as beautiful as they are grotesque, most of the scenes in the real world are formulaic and boring. They feel like any other cop drama on TV or film, only with Vince Vaughn instead of someone I actually want to watch solve crimes (which are mostly just Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay).
Actually, it’s a bit unfair of me to pick on Vaughn this time. I may not like him in general, but his performance here is pretty good. It was odd seeing him in a serious role, as I know him exclusively as an annoying oaf who I do not find funny at all. I also enjoyed Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance as the psychotic killer. He’s an underrated actor, for sure. Jennifer Lopez is OK. She’s been better in dramas (Selena), but I prefer her in comedies. I’ll give her credit for being one of the few singers who can also act without seeming completely ridiculous on screen, though.
As I’ve said before, the visuals in The Cell are where the film excels. The imagery references some contemporary artists, as well as popular Catholic iconography, and perfectly suit the minds they are meant to represent. The images range from stunning to unsettling. It’s at times beyond creepy to watch, and probably not that far off from what the subconscious of a deeply disturbed individual would look like. I think I would re-watch this movie for these sequences alone. I just wish the same sort of care and artistry were given to the real world scenes.