The Cell

03/29/2024 08:39

Film: The Cell

Year: 2000

Director: Tarsem Singh

Writer: Mark Protosevich

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn and Vincent D’Onofrio



This was a movie that I remember coming out, but I missed it. I knew that this had Jennifer Lopez and Vincent D’Onofrio. The images from this movie were beautiful which intrigued me. This was then selected by my wife, Jaime, when I asked if she wanted to hit the button on the randomizer. I was excited to finally take this off my list.

Synopsis: an F.B.I. Agent persuades a social worker, who is adept with new experiment technology, to enter the mind of a comatose serial killer to learn where he has hidden his latest kidnap victim.

We start this in the desert. Catherine Deane (Lopez) is riding a black horse. The imaginary is surreal. She is talking to a boy, Edward Baines (Colton James). She asks questions about sailing and he shuts down. He claims there’s a boogeyman after him, Mokelock. Edward has changes come over him and he disappears.

It is from here that we learn Edward is in a coma. Catherine is on a team with Henry West (Dylan Baker) and Dr. Miriam Kent (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) where they’re using experimental machinery. This allows Catherine to enter Edward’s subconscious. They can’t get him to come out of his coma though as this boogeyman keeps spooking Edward. It is part of his imagination. His parents, Ella (Musetta Vander) and Lucien (Patrick Bauchau), don’t think they’re going to get anywhere and look toward ending their son’s time with the program. Catherine fights to continue as she is convinced that she can help him.

There is something else in a real desert. We see Carl Stargher (D’Onofrio) go into a secret basement of buildings out in the middle of nowhere. There is a woman being held in a cell that fills with water. Carl is into body modification and he hangs from rings that are stuck in his back. Once this sufferer dies, we see that he bleaches the body and leaves her to be found. She is the 7th victim.

The F.B.I. are after him as the synopsis says. Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) is the lead agent. He works with Gordon Ramsey (Jake Weber) and Cole (Dean Norris). They get their first break with this body. There is a hair found. It belongs to an albino dog.

We then see Carl stalking his next victim. She is taken and put in a cell. Something then happens to her captor though. He is in the bathtub and has a seizure of sorts. He gets out and heads to the kitchen where he has another. The FBI is on to him and bust in, finding him naked on the floor. They need to find his latest victim before it is too late. The agents learn of the institute where Catherine and her team work. They ask to use the machine to see if they can find where he keeps these women before it is too late. Catherine agrees to help, but being in the mind of Carl might be too much. She does something drastic that doesn’t just jeopardize the experiment, but her own life.

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that this is an interesting film to check out. There are aspects of science fiction where this team goes into the mind of a coma patient to see if they can break it to wake him up. What is interesting is that I got vibes of Michael Crichton’s Coma. There is the direct imaginary of Catherine, Edward, Carl and then even Peter being suspended from wires. Carl does another variation where he hangs from the rings on his back. There is a motif of water and it is brought up as to why Carl does this. He uses water to kill his victims so that is one. Something fascinating to me that I wanted to kick my thoughts off with.

Now this isn’t a movie that gets talked about a lot. I’m getting the idea that this isn’t the most loved. I can see that. It makes for an interesting horror movie though. This explores the psyche of Carl. What is interesting there is that Catherine needs to navigate parts of his childhood, meet with his inner child to help him and save his latest victim. There is this specific thing that happens to his mind to break him. He will never come out of this coma. He also seems like a good guy but the abuse he went through with his father has created a ‘demon’. This makes him do bad things and it all but has taken over his mind. This is looking at Carl being a serial killer that was nurtured through abuse to do things that he did. I also get that he came from a poor family so that could play in it as well. Regardless, exploring the mind of Carl and how D’Onofrio plays the characters there was great. He’s an actor that I’m a big fan of and this doesn’t hurt that.

Something that I want to shift over next falls into filmmaking. The surreal look inside of the minds of Edward, Carl and Catherine is great. The former and the latter tend to be in a desert. I’m guessing that Carl is lost, that is a good representation. Catherine is there to help both parties. Carl’s thoughts are these grand and surreal places. This is made better when the federal agents go through this things and they’re all taken from images that he kept. I love that as they’re classic paintings. It helps with the atmosphere. It also makes sense why Catherine gets lost there. I’ll also credit the cinematography and the framing to bring them to life. This is a stunning movie. The effects we get are solid. We get a decent amount of blood for a mainstream film. What is interesting there is that it can be illogical since these things are happening in the mind. I also thought that what they do with the sound design and the music was good. It helps build what they need to. It also is aided by disembodied voices being heard due to where this mostly takes place.

I think then I want to finish out with the acting. I’ve already said how great D’Onofrio was. He is terrifying. That’s the only thing I left out. Lopez was fine as our lead. I like that she isn’t a scientist, but a child psychologist. That fit. We also saw her in a pair of underwear, which didn’t hurt. Vaughn was solid here in an earlier serious role. He adds a bit of comedy without going too far. I like Baker and Jean-Baptiste as the members of Catherine’s team. Fun to see Weber and Norris here as they’re solid actors. The cast here was good across the board.

In conclusion, this is a good movie. I’m not sure if this doesn’t get talked about due to people not liking it or having issues. I thought that this was solid for what it does. This is a surreal, bordering into the arthouse with the set pieces. The best performer is D’Onofrio who is a great villain. The rest of the cast was solid around him. I thought that the cinematography, framing and the sets were amazing. This does have a bit of a pacing issue to run a bit long and loses tension but doesn’t ruin this. I rather enjoyed this. It isn’t a great film. What it does well kept my interest and would recommend it if you want a bit of sci-fi/horror with serial killers and exploring the mind.


My Rating: 7.5 out of 10