The Cell (2000)

dir. Tarsem Singh

It is genuinely embarrassing to see how much The Cell is trying versus how little it actually achieves. The story follows child psychologist Catherine (Jennifer Lopez, about as ineffectual as you can imagine) who uses special technology to delve into her patients’ minds through a realm akin to virtual reality. Her skills are required when notorious serial killer Carl (Vincent D’Onofrio) is caught but is in a coma, meaning the only way to find the location of his current, live victim is by examining his psyche. While the premise of exploring a serial killer’s mind is intriguing, The Cell just indulges in the most basic, obvious imagery and tropes: torture, child abuse, dismembered dolls, the whole thing almost feels perfunctory, to the extent there’s no real impact. This is also done through a distinct but oozingly pretentious aesthetic, with bizarre colours and sets and costumes which look stylish, but add absolutely no substance. The real kick in the teeth is the plot is fundamentally pointless – saving Carl’s victim winds up having nothing to do with the secrets in his subconscious, while his final confrontation with Catherine leads to far, far more questions than answers. Though it’s obvious The Cell is trying to be deep and gritty, it’s fundamentally just empty.

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