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CELL, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) is a psychologist who has been experimenting with radical techniques involving synaptic transfer. With the use of cyber-technology she is able to enter another person’s subconscious. FBI Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) believes this technique may be the only hope of rescuing the last victim (believed to be still alive) of comatose serial killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio). She agrees to enter Stargher's subconscious and attempt to discover the location of a hidden cell in which his latest victim will drown in 40 hours time. But to enter Stargher’s subconscious world is to literally step into a nightmare.

"Brilliant at times and infuriating at others, The Cell is one of the more audacious projects to hit the screen in recent times. The filmmakers’ stated intention was to take the idea behind The Silence of the Lambs one step further and to literally go inside a killer’s mind. However, this may be simply marketing hype. The Cell explores many radically different themes from The Silence of the Lambs; and does so in ways that challenge our perceptions of film as art. The hallucinogenic "mind" sequences are not a particularly new idea – Hitchcock used similar sequences in Spellbound and Vertigo – but director Tarsem Singh takes them to new heights of both style and weirdness. The script poses more questions than it answers, but this is in a way more satisfying than having trite solutions presented on a platter. If there is a failing with the film, it’s the lack of a consistent stance. It starts out as something of a plea for understanding and research into the causes of mental illness and violent behaviour; but ends up seemingly endorsing capital punishment – a strange combination to say the least. The performances are uniformly good, with D’Onofrio outstanding as the seriously deranged killer. While the visuals are dazzling (and occasionally disturbing) it would be a mistake to let their flash obscure the complexities of the intense psychological drama. Although The Cell certainly isn’t the most accessible film, it is one of the most intriguing works from a first time director this year."
David Edwards

"All dressed up with nowhere much to go, The Cell is an initially intriguing thriller which fails to build on its imaginative premise. The signs are encouraging at first as Lopez wanders through a spectacular desert scene attempting to connect with the subconscious of a comatose boy. His rich father (Patrick Bauchau) is impatient and there's no proof this "Neurological Cartography and Synaptic Transfer System" works outside of former social worker Lopez's say-so. Enter serial killer D'Onofrio (always reliable playing degenerate dirt-bags) and a sub-Silence Of The Lambs serial killer plot and things slowly head downhill. For all its remarkable visuals, The Cell simply doesn't have what it takes to work as a thriller. There's barely a genuine scare or a decent build up of tension as Lopez navigates the windmills of D'Onofrio's mind and dreams, only to encounter him as a frightened young boy most of the time. Even when she (and later Vaughn) meet the grown-up version the purpose seems only to dazzle us with effects and design which Peter Greenaway would be proud of. Unfortunately it's at the expense of the frisson we paid for at the door. Rock clip and commercials director Tarsem knows how to compose arresting images; it's a pity he hasn't dosed himself up with some inspiration from a film like Hellraiser to make this journey a scary one."
Richard Kuipers

"All the wandering around in somebody else’s dream – and musing on the possible effects on one’s own reality – reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass. It might seem odd to draw analogies between Tarsem’s outré images of horror and the beloved children’s fable, but Carroll always did display a subtly grim sense of humour – even in Wonderland, there is a joking aside about death as Alice hurtles down the well. That being said, Tarsem’s imagination is a lot uglier than Alice’s, and Jennifer Lopez an altogether different type of heroin. Even Roald Dahl would agree that this is no children’s tale, and many adults may find it difficult to stomach (indeed there’s some literally visceral imagery to deal with). Purely in visual terms there are more obvious influences here: Hieronymous Bosch, Francis Bacon, Damien Hirst (in whose vogue a grisly gallery piece is instantly created), Terry Gilliam and the nightmarish poetry of Po. It is Tarsem’s ability to take these influences and create something stunningly imaginative that warrants merit, notwithstanding the many meretricious indulgences. There’s simply no question that as a drama the film would struggle to rate alongside a lowly episode of The Outer Limits. It’s cliche-ridden, schlocky cyber-sci-fi. Not too much blame can be attached to the cast, who do a moderate job with some woeful dialogue. But Tarsem’s feature film debut (he comes to cinema as an award-winning video clip director; and in many ways it shows) suggests he is capable of establishing himself as a visual stylist on the darker side of Jean-Pierre Juneaut. This is a film born to be controversial, and create a dichotomy among critics and public alike. The inevitable accusations of pretentiousness are not without substance, but cinema desperately needs some non-effects driven flamboyance, and this is a radical departure from standard Hollywood horror."
Brad Green

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

See Jenny Cooney Carrillo's interview with
JENNIFER LOPEZ

TRAILER

CELL, THE (MA)
(US)

CAST: Jennifer Lopez, Vincent L'Onofrio, Vince Vaughn,Dylan Baker, Marianne Jean-Baptiste

DIRECTOR: Tarsem

PRODUCER: Erin McLeod, Julilo Caro

SCRIPT: Mark Protesevich

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Paul Laufer

EDITOR: Paul Rubell, A.C.E., Robert Duffy

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tom Foden

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 16, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Ent

VIDEO RELEASE: February 28, 2001







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