The Cell (Blu-ray)

July 7, 2015 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Many movies these days are alike, this we know. Movies, however, are meant to express what is real and at the same time what is not…that’s the beauty of a movie, seeing things that aren’t possible to see or do in the real world. As we embrace the 21st Century, and as technology becomes more and more “futuristic”, the way we view movies becomes a constant, yet interesting adventure. This brings us to “The Cell”. The Cell is one of the more visually interesting movies to come along. While movies like “Pitch Black” use a different palette, The Cell does as well, but both will leave a lasting impression long after you’ve seen the movie. The sheer color scheme alone is enough to overwhelm the senses; combined with the subject matter of the film and you’ve got a very interesting combination. We all know Jennifer Lopez from Stephen Soderbergh’s “Out of Sight” and various other movies, so this was her chance to really “lead” a movie. Paired with another brilliant actor, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lopez manages to hold her own against the other two actors.

The Cell is certainly not an original story, that’s for sure. Once you get past the visuals, you learn that it’s yet another serial killer movie, but one cannot help but be pulled into The Cell’s grasp. Catherine (Jennifer Lopez) plays a psychologist (psychotherapist) who does her work in a much different way. Looking like something out of “Coma” and wearing a grooved, bright red bodysuit, she is able to enter the mind of a subject and interact with them on a subconscious level. Certainly a very original concept, and one that’s probably becoming less and less associated with “Science Fiction” than we’d like to think. Anyhow, the story centers around Carl Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio). Carl is the serial killer who has killed several women in the past and now his victims are getting closer and closer together. Showing glimpses of his very troubled childhood, we can see how or what drove Carl to become this way, but we certainly can’t condone it. Carl not only kills them, but in a very ritualistic way. He drowns them after keeping them help hostage in a small room with glass walls. After they die, he bleaches them and suspends himself from the ceiling, hanging only by hooks that he has had “installed” into his own flesh! Carl is not well, mentally. The FBI, and Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) in particular have almost narrowed down the search for Carl when he collapses into a comatose state…hence he is caught. Though this is only half of the puzzle solved.

Catherine’s experimental therapy is the only hope of finding the latest victim. They hope, by having Catherine enter his subconscious, that they can find the location of the latest victim before yet another woman dies. With Carl’s physical body out of commission, the rest of the movie is like watching a dream. As Carl’s subconscious is very active indeed. I don’t want to give too much away, but rest assured that The Cell is one tripped out movie. I found myself freezing the image a few times just so I could see what was happening in the frame; there is so much going on that while visually pleasing, it can be a bit overwhelming too. It’s clear that Director Tarsem Singh has an eye for grabbing our attention, and I’m one who will be in line to see his next film. While The Cell has a plot similar of an updated version of “Dreamscape” with bits and pieces of “Se7en” and others mixed in, it delivers on almost all levels.

Video: How’s it look?

If you haven’t figured out by now, The Cell looks flat out amazing. While a lot of it features computer-generated imagery, it’s still not to be missed. The 2.35:1 image is superb, stunning…you name it. I remember being awestruck by the DVD way back when, but this Blu-ray has raised the bar even higher (if that’s possible). The surreal images look stunning, black levels are right on track, no sign of artifacting, digital compression errors or artifacts. Quite simply put–this is a reference quality picture.

Audio: How’s it sound?

While not quite as stunning as the video (and it would have to be pretty impressive if it was), the DTS HD Master Audio mix more than suits the needs for the film. The surrounds on this disc impressed me, as the little discrete effects make the movie come alive. There are points at which the soundtrack is used full force, during a helicopter scene, for example. For the most part, it’s an above average soundtrack, but not quite the example of perfection that the video is. Also included is Howard Shore’s Isolated Score.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Back in the infancy of DVD, New Line led the pack when it came to “packed-to-the-gills” special edition films. The good news is that most all of the supplements from that DVD have made the leap to this Blu-ray version, but the bad news is that nothing new has been produced. Still, it’s better to have than have not, so here’s what to expect on this disc.

  • Audio Commentary – Director Tarsem Singh who expresses his passion for the movie and, through an accent, tries to justify the use of all his visuals (i.e. “…my movie may not be that great, so I’ll just make it look cool…”), but it’s quite clear that he has put of time and effort into the movie and the impressive visuals are something that has been added to the movie to make it more surreal.
  • Audio Commentary – The Production Team, which ranges to everyone from the Makeup Supervisor (Michelle Burke) to the Costume Designer (April Napier) to the composer (Howard Shore), took part in this second track. I’m a big fan of group commentary tracks, but this one just didn’t really seem to have it. After listening to the first track with Singh, who has the “true vision”, this one seemed a bit dull.
  • Style as Substance: Reflections on Tarsem – Director Tarsem Singh reflects on his work and his “gift” for camera placement. Though it measures only 11 minutes, it’s another nice touch to have and it’s clear that Tarsem Singh will be making more movies in the future.
  • Deleted Scenes – Shown with optional commentary, a lot of them show some more insight to the characters, and that’s something the movie needed a bit more of, not just a pretty picture. Still, the optional commentary with Singh is a nice touch and I recommend watching both with and without Singh’s comments.
  • Special Effects with Multi-Angle Vignettes – I remember back in the early days of DVD, how they touted the use of the multi-angle feature yet it never really took off. At any rate, this shows how six scenes were shot and used with special effects. Obviously, the most impressive scenes had special effects and these six were shown how they originated from storyboard to the final scene.
  • Theatrical Trailers – Two total, an international and the theatrical.

Missing is the DVD-ROM content to the now defunct web site (it leads to the Warner Brothers web site) as well as some cast and crew bios and the Interactive Brain Map and Empathy Test. This is essentially the same technology they now use on Facebook to tell you historical figure or Star Trek character you most resemble.

The Bottom Line

I’m not the biggest fan of Jennifer Lopez, but I’ll admit that she’s done well for herself. I prefer her earlier work in films like this and Out of Sight. I’d forgotten how much I really enjoyed the symbolism and the visuals in this film. It’s nice to have this on Blu-ray which looks and sounds amazing and ports over most of the features from the Special Edition DVD.

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