Serial killers have become the staple of thrillers. The limits of what a human can do is often explored within film (some based on real occurrences), but no film has literally delved into the mind of a killer like The Cell.
The Cell is one of the most unique and beautiful films you will ever witness. Only films directed by the same director (Tarsem Singh) come close to the visual feast the audience is given (Check out The Fall) and this is mainly because of the plot.
…placing them in a large glass box and drowning them after 40 hours…
Although a bit ludicrous at first, you are slowly drawn into the action as the film progresses. A serial killer called Carl Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio) abducts and murders young women by placing them in a large glass box and drowning them after 40 hours. Hot on his heels is FBI agent, Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn), who manages to locate Stargher, but not before he falls into a coma. With a girl missing and time running out Novak turns to a company that has developed a new way to enter people’s minds. Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) is the young expert child psychologist who uses the procedure to enter children’s minds and help them come back to reality. When asked to enter Stargher’s mind to retrieve the information the police need, Catherine is hesitant, but decides to help and ultimately enter the mind of a psychotic killer.
As far as plots go, it is a little far-fetched, however because of a wonderful set-up, when the journey into the mind occurs the audience explores the visually decadent world of a killer that is strewn with literary, artistic and sexual imagery. At the beginning, Catherine works to free a boy stuck in his own mind. The landscape is a vast, beautiful desert where Catherine rides a horse across the plains. The emptiness reflects how little the boy has learned in his short lifetime whereas Stargher’s mind is full of dark, foreboding beauty. His murders are evident in the walls, ceilings and even a physical presence.
…from innocence to power…
The director (who had previously worked as a commercial film director) pours his vast knowledge of visuals into the production and the film is richer for it. The characters are well thought out and even Catherine’s development from innocence to power is stunning to perceive as realising she cannot save the child in Stargher without linking their minds; she makes the decision to let Stargher into hers and continues to destroy him in a very symbolic way.
The Cell did well at the box office, but its critics are divided. At a time when the thriller formula was starting to get stagnant, The Cell threw something into the mix that was very new and cinemagoers were unfortunately hesitant. As time has gone on I hope that people are more accepting as the film is such an inspiration in production values, cinematography and design to anyone who loves art and film.
Images courtesy of New Line Cinema