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Movie Review: Cellular

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This one came completely out of left field. I had been completely unaware of this movie coming until I saw a commercial for it last week, the same week as it’s release. Despite this seemingly short ramp up, word of mouth seemed to be good. It has gotten a lot of positive reviews despite it’s rather implausible setup. Well, here’s another one to add to the list.

With no setup, the movie bursts right into the action and doesn’t let up for it’s 90 minute runtime. Jessica Martin has no sooner put her son on the school bus, than a group of gun toting thugs break into her house and kidnap her. Jessica is thrown into an attic very little, save for a broken phone. She uses the remnants of the phone to randomly dial numbers hoping to get somebody, she does. On the other end is Ryan, a young guy who thinks it’s a prank call. The rest of the film involves keeping the cell signal strong while trying to convince the police to help him as well as trying to figure out what these guys want.

Cellular reminded me a bit of Phone Booth. Both movies have brief running times packed with a lot of tension, also giving bits of the plot along the way rather than having an extended setup early on. I admit, I found the film to be exciting, and even though some inconsistencies and leaps of logic almost jumped off the screen at me, I found myself not minding them too much. The out there situation was secondary to the excitement of what was going to come next, coupled with some entertaining performances it was pretty easy to excuse the problems.

David R. Ellis succeeded at creating a fun guilty pleasure for the second time. His last feature, Final Destination 2, was also an entertaining work. Again, completely implausible, but entertaining anyway. Ellis got some great shots in this film, interesting angles and camera moves, he knows how to put a pretty picture up there. The inventive story/screenplay by Chris Morgan and Larry Cohen (who, coincidentally also wrote Phone Booth) came up with some inventive ways of putting the call in jeopardy.

The cast does a good job at bringing this movie to life, even if the characters are pretty much one dimensional. Our hero, Ryan, is played by Chris Evans, last seen in The Perfect Score. He does a good job here playing the guy connected to a cell phone and lengths he will go to help a stranger. He doesn’t really get to play that rounded a character, but it does a good job at getting him some exposure before making The Fantastic Four (where he is set to play the Human Torch). Our woman in peril is played by Kim Basinger, also does a good job, but I found her voice to be a little off, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the quality was strange. Our main bad guy is portrayed by Jason Statham, I have become a fan of his work over the years, he can exude cold menace and tough guy cool at the same time, although he doesn’t get much to do here but he makes the most of it. Rounding out the primary cast is William H. Macy, solid every time out. He plays a weary cop who seems to be spinning his wheels, but with this case finds something to latch onto, reminding him of why he’s been a cop.

Besides the good direction and solid acting, the plot twists ingeniously using the full capabilities of modern cell phones as a plot device. The phone is this movies gimmick, much like the phone booth in, uh, Phone Booth. It is the key which ties together the two sides of the story. It also gets to use all of the functions most of us probably don’t use. Calls on hold, caller ID memory, picture capabilities, it even tosses in problems such as a low battery and crossed signals. And using all of these capabilities, we are presented with an energetic thriller.

Despite the ludicrous fun, the film is clearly not without it’s faults. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, I want to touch on a couple of things. Very early on the point that Jessica (Basinger) is a science teacher is made very apparent to the viewer, this sets up her use of the broken phone. The next is probably the biggest leap of logic in the film, and without it we wouldn’t have a film. Jessica is placed in an attic with a typical phone on the wall, now ask yourself “Why would the kidnapper put her in a room with a phone?” The answer is so that he can come back and smash it. Now, wouldn’t it have been easier to just take the phone out of the room? I mean, this is their house, would you break your phone? It’s not done because it is necessary for the rest of the plot. And lastly, if you knew how to make it dial, wouldn’t you dial someone you knew? Anyway, there are others, But I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, as it is a very good movie, plotted well for the most part, and exciting for the entire 90 minutes.

Bottomline. In the end what we have is an imperfect popcorn flick, doesn’t sound so good when it’s put that way. The movie is very entertaining, it will keep you on the edge of your seat as you wait to see how it will turn out. In this kind of movie, you pretty much know what way it’s going to go, the fun is in the ride.


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  • Eric Olsen

    how holistic

  • Thank you! It is a fun movie. I have since read that Larry Cohen wrote it while trying to sell Phone Booth, with the purpose of it being the opposite of Phone Booth. Basically making him move rather than trap him in a booth.

  • Eric Olsen

    very nice Chris, I got a real sense of the film and your experience of it. Thanks!