Cell (Blu-ray)

September 29, 2016 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I get a lot of films on Blu-ray that I never knew existed. Some I remember in a passing manner having seen them at the theater (not actually seeing them at the theater, just on the theater marquee). Unfortunately Cell isn’t one of them. But that’s ok, sometimes I like to think outside the box and give things a chance. And this was inspired by a book written by Stephen King – so it’s not like it could be all that bad, right? But, switching gears, let’s look at what the premise of the film is and, more to the point, who stars in it. Basically it’s a zombie movie. There, that’s out of the way. And it stars Samuel L. Jackson. That’s not saying a lot since he’s been in every movie. Ever. Kidding, of course, but let’s face it Samuel L. Jackson will probably ultimately be remembered for Pulp Fiction and not much more. Nothing against the guy, but between he, Nicholas Cage, John Travolta and Bruce Willis – I’m willing to bet they’ve got 500 credits between them. And there’s John Cusack who, to his credit, has managed to hold onto his career ever since the mid 80’s. Kudos to you John.  Now that that’s all out of the way, let’s get started…

An electromagnetic pulse is sent to every cell phone in America, and if answered, the transmission turns the user into a zombie. Clayton Riddell (John Cusack), has just finished begging his estranged ex-wife to allow him to see his son, whom he hasn’t visited in over a year. Their conversation is cut short when the people around Clay begin to change, viciously attacking each other. A policeman feasts on his own security dog. A young woman bashes her head repeatedly against a wall before flashing Clay a bloody, toothless smile. Clay breaks free of the nascent horde, finding shelter in a broken-down subway car; he joins forces with Tom McCourt (Samuel L. Jackson), a train conductor who suggests that the passengers take shelter in the tunnels. After a member of their contingent is killed by what they call “phoners” (no one in Cell dares utter the word “zombie”), the two take shelter in Clay’s apartment while they devise next steps. While in hiding, the men discover that his teenage neighbor, Alice (Isabelle Fuhrman), survived the uprising. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Truthfully Cell isn’t all that bad, it actually starts out with a pretty promising beginning, but then it seems to deteriorate into an endless spiral that reeks of “been there, done that.” Originally set to be filmed in 2009, the movie spent several years in movie limbo. During that time, or maybe not, I can’t remember, I do recall a similar film called Pulse starring Kristen Bell and again, if memory serves, it’s kind of the same thing (only the “enemy” there was Wi-Fi). Still, seasoned actors like Jackson and Cusack do what they can with the film and though it’s in predictable territory, I did manage to find it. Am I convinced that all cell phones are evil and that something like this could happen? No, not really, but if you’re looking for something to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon (remember it has to be rainy), you could do a lot worse.

Video: How’s it look?

The included 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer is certainly indicative of what we might expect from a new to Blu-ray film. Detail is impressive, colors are saturated and look good and I saw no discernible errors in the overall look of the film. Is a lack of fault a perfect transfer? No, not really. I think the film seemed a bit flat. Then again this wasn’t a large budget  picture to begin with, so maybe there are different tiers of cameras. It’s not at all bad, and I don’t think viewers will be disappointed, but I wasn’t blown away by any means.

Audio: How’s it sound?

A DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has been included which has a few moments, but by and large it’s fairly standard in nature. Vocals are full and crisp, there’s no distortion to be found (er, “heard”) and though the surrounds take charge during a few scenes, I couldn’t really find much memorable about the way this sounded. Like the video presentation, it’s not bad by any means, just nothing that stood out.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Audio Commentary – Ok, I’ll freely admit that I didn’t listen to the commentary. It’s there for you though if you want it.
  • To Cell and Back – Ha! I see what they did there! This is your standard EPK featurette with some talking heads interviews with the cast and crew.

The Bottom Line

Like Stephen King, both Samuel L. Jackson and John Cusack will be remembered for better work. Though Cell isn’t awful, it’s yet another entry in a somewhat tired genre. The Blu-ray both looks and sounds good, but with a lack of supplemental material and a rather lackluster allure to the entire thing, a rental is best.

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