For this week’s sci-fi movie anaylis I’d like to discuss the movie The Cell (2000), featuring Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn and directed by Tarsem Singh. This is not a sci-fi in the classical sense, as there is no space traveling. Instead, there is mind traveling. It’s got all the traits of a good psychological thriller.
Minor spoilers ahead
The plot summary:
Catharine Deane is a psychotherapist who is part of a revolutionary new treatment which allows her mind to literally enter the mind of her patients. Her experience in this method takes an unexpected turn when an FBI agent comes to ask for a desperate favour. They had just tracked down a notorious serial killer, Carl Stargher, whose MO is to abduct women one at a time and place them in a secret area where they are kept for about 40 hours until they are slowly drowned. Unfortunately, the killer has fallen into an irreversible coma which means he cannot confess where he has taken his latest victim before she dies. Now, Catherine Deane must race against time to explore the twisted mind of the killer to get the information she needs, but Stargher’s damaged personality poses dangers that threaten to overwhelm her.
Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn are far (FAR) from my favorite actors, but in all honesty, I think this is Jennifer Lopez’ best movie to date and it was refreshing to see Vince Vaughn in something else than a comedy (and his performance wasn’t too bad).
What especially fascinates me about this movie is that they created a dream world that truly feels like a dream world. I know many movies where they tried to do the same, but those worlds always felt too realistic to me. Dreams are surreal, there is no chronology and things generally don’t make sense.
In this movie, a lot doesn’t make sense, which I think is the reason for the relatively low rating it has on IMDb. I think it deserves more. Not in the least because of the fantastic direction, the sets, the costumes, and really, the general creativity (big kudos to director Singh). Additionally, the writers created a great antagonist, who is extremely freaky, even scary – also thanks to Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays an incredibly convincing role as the psychotic serial killer.
What if you were Catharine Deane? Would you agree to enter this man’s world to save the girl’s life? How would you deal with being in someone else’s head, or world, with the chance of getting caught in it?
If this sort of technology was actually available, do you think it would be used? It’s not particularly ethical, as it puts a huge strain on both the person whose mind is being entered and the person who’s doing the entering.
People generally view serial killers, or killers in general, simply as the bad guy who deserves nothing but being killed themselves. The reason why this movie is so controversial is that in the end, you find yourself empathizing with the killer. You see him in his world, where he is most vulnerable, you see his past and what “created” him. This, I think, made some of the movie reviewers recoil (see an example of such an interview here). This is fine, as long as you don’t mind the negative reviews and keep an open mind yourself while watching the movie.
I would recommend this movie to anyone who’s interested in the inner workings of the mind of a criminal. If you’re not interested in such a thing and, like the reviewer, would rather just see a bullet through any killer’s head, stay away from this one.
Has anyone here seen this movie? What did you think? Did the dream world feel as real to you as it did to me?
If you liked The Cell, I would also like to recommend The Fall, another one of Tarem Singh’s movies. It’s as visually pleasing as The Cell, and tells a terrific story (but is not at all sci-fi).