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Dreamlike and Hypnotic; "The Cell" is visual magic.

  • Jan 28, 2011
***1/2 out of ****

So many films promise the cinematic acid trip of a life-time; the seductive visual excitement that no other film can possibly present to you. Few follow up on their promises, but I have many times before enjoyed a good visual trip. But is it right to adore a film for its visual craft alone? Maybe. But when it has the kind of substance that only a select few will see, then there's much reason for one to like it. I am referring to a film such as "The Cell". This magnificent piece of cinematic eye-candy is some of the best I've seen in a while, and for quite some time this particular sense of whimsy remains consistent. This certainly helps the film a lot, since director Tarsem Singh, professionally known only by his first name, seems to have the born skill of artful filmmaking. You may not agree with me on my opinion, but I think "The Cell" is a mighty fine movie. It exists to thrill the audience with its visuals, and by all means it succeeds. I found myself captivated whenever Tarsem's unique and stunning visuals were on-screen, but a little bored when they weren't. This gives me a chance to say that while it's still wonderful and suitably grand on the visual scale, "The Cell" is not perfect. There were some points in the film's story where I felt more narrative detail was needed, and then, as I mentioned, there were times when the lack of amazing eye-candy really hurt the film's entertainment value. None the less, these are the kind of flaws I can easily forgive. I'm perhaps too forgiving of a film like this, but I'm not going to lie; I really enjoyed it. This is one of 2002's more unique films, if not one of its overall best. "The Cell" has none the less made me want to see more out of Tarsem, and it's also made me re-evaluate Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn as actors/actresses. Both have had their good days, and then their bad days, but this is one of those times where a director can master them to the best of their ability. This is a great film and Tarsem is a great director. It's not a movie that will appeal to just anyone, but then again what are visually trippy, wholesomely satisfactory cinematic films for? This is what I believe to be the work of a man who has alas been misunderstood by many. If you can look past some of the obvious plot flaws, then you'll most likely enjoy the "trip" while it lasts. It's not a film for everyone; some think of it as pretentious, overly-ambitious, and even boring. I think it's a pretty darn good film. And if it means anything, I suppose that counts for something. Whether it appeals to you or not, I say see it.

This is a film that dares to blend the thriller and fantasy genres, and still tries to create something magical out of the mix. I say it works. Others will probably say it's a complete mess. The story involves a technology which allows the patient who uses it to enter a virtual reality. A child psychiatrist (who goes by the name of Catherine) often uses this as a form of therapy, although some people do not approve of her methods. When an unconscious serial killer is wheeled in to the institution, Catherine agrees to put the technology to the test as she enters the killer's mind in hopes of uncovering the secret behind the latest victim's hidden location. Most of the film's plot is spent in the visually horrific realms of the serial killer's mind, and through this we learn quite a bit. All-together, it's an ordeal for the character(s), but it's a visual treat for the ones watching the film unfold. The story presents us with characters that I surprisingly found myself liking for the most part, although some of them felt a bit bland. May I also add that it's a particularly good thing that the film never humanizes the "villain"; although as a movie-goer I couldn't help but feel a bit sympathetic for the guy after hearing his life-story. What I love about this film is not the story nor the characters; but the world that it creates. It's intoxicating as an experience; at least whenever it's showing what visual awesomeness it has hidden beneath its imperfect but fantastical exterior. You need to look at this film from different angles to truly enjoy it, although sadly, that might be too much for some people. All I can say it that you might get lost in it, or you might choose to erase it from your memory. Either way; it's a confusing, twisty, but interesting as hell film. For that, I think you'd want to be seeing it.

This is a seriously satisfying show-case of the talents of Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Lopez. Both have had a tough time in my movie-watching past, but this is a time when they're not required to work together at all. They're in the film together, and they both serve as major individuals in the story-line, but there's no intended chemistry between the two. And that's what I love about it. As individual performances, both actors do exceptionally well. Lopez in particular shows a side of her that I just haven't seen enough of; a spunky and endearing side. As for Vaughn; he abandons all humor and goes for a serious but engaging role. I like that, and I liked it even more when I found him genuinely entertaining to watch. Vincent D'Onofrio also puts on a convincing performance as the killer; even if he's not exactly the most menacing or convincing one I've seen in my time. He was none the less an entertaining performer.

You can create art out of just about anything when you choose to film it. You can do it in a visual sense or in an emotional, narrative way. Any film with such ambitions is sure to entertain me none the less. "The Cell" is the kind of film that may come off to some as pretentious and overheated. For all its visual beauty; it might appear to some as flawed and lacking in the story department. Indeed, it may as well be, but that doesn't ruin it for me. I liked the film a lot; particularly for its visual style but also for the artistic genius that Tarsem puts on display here. A good deal of the film is spent in the visual nightmare that is the mind of the film's killer, and while it's appropriately intense, it's also quite interesting. In fact, "The Cell" had me convinced that it was great when scenes such as these became more and more consistent, although I found myself only somewhat bored when they weren't on display. Imagine my face when the visual grandness stopped...I wasn't too interested, as you can expect. It's a good thing that every visual sequence stretches out for quite some time, and the cinematography remains wonderful even outside of the visually surrealistic realms. There's something that I really loved about this film; and I can freely admit that most of it came from the masterful visual style. I believe that Tarsem is a true artist; perhaps as a story-teller and a visual master. I suppose he can do better when it comes to telling a timely tale, but I'll save that thought for the future. Nevertheless, try to see "The Cell" for what it is; visual eye-candy. For me, that wasn't all it was. It's a work of art, and someday it may even be considered great by many. In a number of ways, I can't understand how if failed to entertain so many. Some people hate it; and that's fine. But I liked the style; and I appreciate the brilliance embedded into it. It's unlike anything I've ever seen.

I'm an honest person who isn't afraid to say he really liked something that other people really didn't. You've seen me like or even love films such as "Antichrist" and "The Fountain"; both of which were panned by several critics for either their content or their ability to be consistent. I'm one of the few people I know who can appreciate these kinds of films, and my eye for filmic art lead me to the conclusion that I really, really liked "The Cell". I don't suppose it's perfect, and I don't suppose it's got the widest of appeal, but who really cares when it's also one of the best cinematic acid trips ever made? You may say that it's wrong for me to like "The Cell" as much as I did, if only for its visual style, but I say it's perfectly fine. I love films like these; mind-being and unique. There's no other film like "The Cell", and I hope that Tarsem can repeat such honorable success. It's not a film for everyone, but I suggest you at least give it a good watch. If you get bored, then good for you; you're a normal human being. But if you're like me and you like the spark of cinematic insanity, then you'll warm up to "The Cell" quite well. I can definitely recommend it, therefore. Most people I know like a good film like this one. But some don't like it, so I don't know who else to suggest it to. There's beauty hidden underneath this often times complex work, and it's only to be seen by a select few. You could even say that the appreciation of the brilliance of the film is to be considered a gift. I like how the artist has painted a pretty picture of grotesque and often times visually disturbing quality. I like how the painting comes at you with life and color; and I also like how you have to look at it to get what the man was trying to do when he made it. It's a work of extreme craft, and it's got me thinking "Damn. I wish I had thought of that!" This is a great film, and I think it's definitely worth a shot. It's fascinating on so many levels, and seldom am I treated to such a glorious wonder drug as this. I ate Tarsem's artistic craft up like a bowl of soup. It was quite tasteful, I must admit. I guess it all depends on one's mental, cinematic taste buds.

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January 03, 2012
This is a good flick indeed
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About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Starring Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D'Onofrio, Colton James, Dylan Baker
Directed by Tarsem Singh
Writer:  Mark Protosevich

Product Description
A therapist (Jennifer Lopez, Out Of Sight) uses an experimental treatment to enter the mind of a serial killer (Vincent D'Onofrio, Men In Black) to learn his secrets. An FBI agent (Vince Vaughn, Swingers) must rescue her from the killer's nightmare mind
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Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Release Date: August 18, 2000
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 1hr 47min
Studio: Avery Pix, New Line Cinema
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