johnlink ranks THE CELL (2000)

Sometimes, it feels like I’ve seen every thriller made in the late 90s and early 2000s. That is not a brag. That is not even a humblebrag. That is evidence of a youth spent in too many theaters and watching too many movies on VHS. But THE CELL is one I’d never seen. I wasn’t always a huge Vince Vaughan fan (though he has since won me over) and Jennifer Lopez only ever made a movie or two I’d even wanted to see (though she was great in OUT OF SIGHT). So THE CELL was a movie I just never caught, until fifteen years after its release.


I watched THE CELL (2000) on 9.20.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

There are not many movies like THE CELL. It is a mix of traditional serial killer thriller, weird dreamscape, and sic-fi morality tail. Director Tarsem Singh has to juggle these disparate balls while trying to drive a story forward. He does it with some skill, though the abstract parts of this movie are much stronger than the reality-based bits.

Catherine (Jennifer Lopez) has a very specialized job. She hooks up to a comatose child through a machine, and she enters his dreams in an attempt to understand him and to bring him back to the real world. Meanwhile, a serial killer, Carl (Vincent D’Onofio), is offing women through a systemic ritual of drowning. Carl is captured, but not before entering into a coma due to a rare genetic disorder. His capturer, Novak (Vince Vaughn) brings the lifeless killer to Catherine hoping she will help discover the whereabouts of Carl’s final would-be victim. After some back and forth which feel superfluous because we know where this movie is going, she agrees to give it a shot.

This movie, then, bounces between real world drama and nightmarish sub-realities. The writing in the real world is a bit obvious. We see what’s coming there long before it arrives. The stuff in the dream world might feel a bit too random at times, but Singh does a nice job of tying it all back to themes and concepts we will revisit. It’s a hard balance to tell a story through a dreamworld which wants to have some totally random bits even as it serves its true master: the story. It’s easy to bellow THEME too strongly, and it is also easy to devolve into moments which are far to random to connect to anything. But THE CELL manages this line fairly well.


Jennifer Lopez isn’t great, but her character is muted here. Vince Vaughn feels like a comedian trying to act seriously, something he proved able to shake years later with his superb turn in an otherwise underwhelming second season of True Detective. D’Onofrio is weird enough, but then he has made a career out of being weird. And you know this is an oddball movie because Pruitt Taylor Vince shows up for one scene, to do his weird eye thing, and then disappears.

This is not a bad movie by any means. It’s story may not be supremely memorable, but its visuals are. I’d never seen any of this film before, but I still recognized several moments from still photos of the movie which had pierced my memory of the years. It’s worth a watch, though it is nothing entirely special.



The visuals in the dream world are truly cool. Worth the price of admission.


FINAL SCORE: 6.25 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on September 24, 2015.

One Response to “johnlink ranks THE CELL (2000)”

  1. A very weird movie, but that’s to be expected from Singh. Nice review John.

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