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  • The Cell (2000): ***1/2

    Directed by Tarsem

    Jennifer Lopez has to go into the mind (virtually) of a serial killer in order to find where he's stashed his latest victim.

    The Cell is a hands-down brilliant movie. It is one of those movies like Dark City, or The Matrix, or The 5th Element, which shows you not only something that you have never seen before, but something that was better than what you thought it could be.

    Virtual reality movies, or dream movies (which this movie sucessfully combines) always make me nervous, becuase they never seem to reflect what that experience would actually be like. Especially dream movies. But The Cell has an actually beautifully effective dream world. Its flow of logic is dead-on, and its imagery is fantastic. Really. It is a brilliant and disturbing set of scenes in the mind of both a little boy and a serial killer.

    Disturbing, yes. The movie is not for the squeamish or easily offended. It is raw and brutal in its portrayal of serial murder. Fortunately I am neither squeamish nor easily offended, and so was able to watch, fascinated, all the disturbing imagery.

    One thing I appreciated a lot about this movie is its time limit. They set up so that there is a definite pressure-cooker to find the victim before she dies, and so there is a sense of tension building even through the most surreal sequences, and it just builds and builds through the entire movie in a real heart-pounding way that is similarly effective as last year's Blair Witch Project.

    I also have to give kudos to Jennifer Lopez's character. I've been a fan of hers since her outstanding role in the brilliant Out of Sight, and here she gives a performance that is so empathic and warm and motherly that it is at time gut wrenching to see the things she has to do. But more than that, she has a dark, hard side that gets forced out in a couple of scenes. Of course you want her to succeed in the movie, but not just to save the victim, but because you want Jennifer Lopez's character to win in whatever she tries. I also really appreciated the fact that she is a child psychologist who goes into an adult murderer just by default that she's the only one who can do it right.

    That all said, I have to very, very reluctantly give The Cell an A- instead of an A. The reason is because the movie didn't feel quite fulfilled. It seemed almost like is was that introduction to a concept, rather than the complete exploration. Almost like a pilot to a TV show or a series of movies. I only hope that they make a whole series of movies about this! I would gladly follow Jennifer Lopez into a whole series of minds of all types! Also, the climax of The Cell is not quite as fulfilling as it could be. But, these are only minor, minor quibbles in the face of a movie this brilliant.

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