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Cell, The (2000, Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D’Onofrio)

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Tarsem Singh is best known for his award-winning music videos (one of the best-known being REM’s Losing My Religion ) and he brings all the tricks of his trade to this psychological thriller. Yet, fast-moving as it is on screen, it also succeeds thanks to an outstanding cast with Jennifer Lopez in particular showing a range she only hinted at in previous appearances.

She plays psychotherapist Catherine Deane who, with colleagues Miriam Kent and Henry West (Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Dylan Baker), has developed unique technology that allows her to enter the subconscious of catatonic patients to discover the trigger of their fears and release them. So far only used on children, the boundaries are broken when FBI agents Peter Novak and Gordon Ramsey (Vince Vaughn and Jake Weber) approach the team. They’ve captured serial killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio) but he has suffered a psychological trauma and is in a coma. All they know is that in less than two days, his eighth victim, left in a glass coffin slowly filling with water, will drown. There’s only one way to find her location – Deane must enter the mind of a madman…

Interestingly, Singh relies less on CGI than another director might, using instead colour that goes from super-saturated to almost bleached, different stock and skipping frames to show the disorientation of Deane’s character once within the killer’s mind. And Lopez must shift character too, from an all-knowing queen-like figure to leather-clad martial arts expert as she attempts not just to penetrate Stargher’s madness for the answer but to find what drove him to become a multiple-murderer and, at the same time, keep her own sanity and safety. D’Onofrio is on a par with a certain cannibal when it comes to a genuinely scary killer and while the supporting cast all add to the quality of the film, once Lopez enters the killer’s mind, this is a thriller that feasts both the mind and the eye.

production details
Germany – USA | 107 minutes | 2000

Director: Tarsem Singh
Script: Mark Protosevich,

cast
Jennifer Lopez as Catherine Deane
Vincent D’Onofrio as Carl Rudolph Stargher
John Cothran, Jr. as Agent Stockwell
Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Dr. Miriam Kent
Dylan Baker as Henry West
Jake Weber as Gordon Ramsey
Pruitt Taylor Vince as Dr. Reid
Dean Norris as Cole
Peter Sarsgaard as Julia Hickson’s Fiancee (uncredited)
Vince Vaughn as Peter Novak
Catherine Sutherland as Anne Marie Vicksey
James Gammon as Teddy Lee
Colton James as Edward Baines
Gerry Becker as Dr. Barry Cooperman
Musetta Vander as Ella Baines
Patrick Bauchau as Lucien Baines
Tara Subkoff as Julia Hickson
Lauri Johnson as Mrs. Hickson
Jack Conley as Agent Brock
Kamar de los Reyes as Officer Alexander
Jake Thomas as Young Carl Stargher

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