The Cell

Of course you can't really divide form and content; the medium is the message, the telling is the tale and so on. But the flagrant disparity between this tale of the rush to save a woman from a sadistic serial killer and the visually inventive way in which it's told demands comment. Child psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) is part of an experimental...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Of course you can't really divide form and content; the medium is the message, the telling is the tale and so on. But the flagrant disparity between this tale of the rush to save a woman from a sadistic serial killer and the visually

inventive way in which it's told demands comment. Child psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) is part of an experimental program to treat mentally ill patients so locked into their own minds that conventional therapy is useless. With the help of lots of drugs and cool machinery, the

therapist actually enters the patient's mind, the mental transfer taking place while they're suspended from wires in a high-tech medical lab, wearing fetishistic rubber suits molded to resemble the muscle beneath the flesh, faces covered with cloths. What an image! And that will be your mantra

throughout this film. The FBI has just captured sicko killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio), who kidnaps women, drowns them in a fully-automated tank of his own fiendish devising, then bleaches their bodies until they look like porcelain dolls. Icky. Unfortunately, he's had a brain seizure and

lies comatose, unable to tell anyone where the girl he just abducted is hidden. Unless Catherine can enter his twisted mind and extract the information, the missing girl will die. So Catherine steps into Stargher's mental chamber of horrors, which seems to have been designed by Salvador Dali, the

Quay brothers, Damien Hirst and fashion photographers Pierre and Gilles. It's mind-bogglingly gorgeous in a totally trippy way; if this were the '70s, no one would see the movie straight (though the nastiness of the imagery is bummer material). The shame is that whenever you get hauled back to the

story, it's impossible not to notice its debt to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. The costumes are phenomenal, the set design ravishing and the sadistic inventiveness extraordinary; it's a shame it's all harnessed to a clichéd story, but hey — you can't have everything.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Of course you can't really divide form and content; the medium is the message, the telling is the tale and so on. But the flagrant disparity between this tale of the rush to save a woman from a sadistic serial killer and the visually inventive way in whic… (more)

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