Thursday Night Movie Club
The Cell
star rating graphic½
Release Date: August 18, 2000

Director: Bruce Hunt
Jennifer Lopez
Colton James
Dylan Baker
Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Gerry Becker
Musetta Vander
Patrick Bauchau
Vincent D'Onofrio
Catherine Sutherland
Vince Vaughn
Catherine Deane
Edward Baines
Henry West
Dr. Miriam Kent
Dr. Cooperman
Ella Baines
Lucien Baines
Carl Stargher
Anne Marie Vicksey
Peter Novak
The Cave movie poster
In a world where anything is possible, all sense of fear, suspense, time and logic is lost. All that remains is a stunningly visual world that is as empty as it is beautiful.

Jennifer Lopez is very good with what little material she has to work with as child psychologist Catherine Deane. With the aid of high technology and here own skills in penetrating the minds of others, she can see into the psyche of those who, for whatever reason can no longer communicate with the outside world. It is her belief and those of her team members that they can help their patients. Her first subject is a young boy traumatized by a boating accident. Deane can enter into the boy's mind and try to help him communicate what happened to him.

At the same time, serial killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio) has kidnapped another female victim, imprisoned her in an airtight/waterproof cell, with the intent to slowly torture her and drown her as the cell slowly fills with water. All this happens before the uncaring eye of a video camera that Stargher has left behind. He likes to keep his victims isolated while he tortures them.

The FBI is hot on Stargher's trail, lead by Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn). While the FBI surrounds Stargher's home, he experiences a seizure that leaves him comatose (of course) for the rest of his life. Agent Novak's only hope is to persuade Deane to penetrate the mind of a serial killer in hopes of discovering where his latest victim is before she is systematically murdered.

An interesting premise for a movie. However, very little suspense is developed out of this race against time motif. The main problem is that with dreams (as well as my own personal experience with swimming as a fitness routine) is that all sense of time progression is lost in this type of situation. Once Deane enters the mind of the killer, she could easily retrieve the information in a few minutes, but this may seem an eternity to Deane while under the influence of the killer.

The special effects while Deane tries to penetrate the mind of killer Stargher are beautiful, but unfortunately void of any terror or suspense. You watch willingly fully expecting to be shocked out of your wits by what the mind of a killer can dream up. The story takes a detour (plot twist) by introducing Stargher as a young boy and we experience the abuse he suffered at the hands of an evil step-father. Throughout the remainder of the story, Deane tries to communicate to Stargher by gaining the young boy's confidence and maybe learning where the kidnapped woman is hidden. If it were not for the connection to the real world every 15 minutes or so, it is very easy to forget why this movie is taking place.

The movie does resolve itself with no surprises regarding the ending. What is mentioned but never flushed out in the film is the exact moment to pushed Stargher over the edge into madness/killing. In a quiet scene between Deane and FBI Agent Novak, he mentions that some people can experience far worse things than Stargher without resorting to violence and killing. Is this a hint that Novak was also abused as a child but developed into an honest, law-abiding agent of the federal government. This is an unfortunate oversight that could easily have made this movie into a classic if they had spared the effects in favor of a better script.