Effective “Untraceable” a misunderstood thriller

Diane Lane as FBI agent Jennifer Marsh.

R, 101 minutes, Screen Gems

I have a feeling that director Gregory Hoblit’s cyber-thriller, Untraceable, which is his second film in less than a year, would garner a smorgesboard of controversy if it were to be a box-office sensation. In the two weeks since its release on January 25th, the numbers for the film have been less than staggering to say the least, and mostly due to the lack of widespread advertisement mixed with wrongly harsh reviews from nearly every critic nationwide. The majority of the criticisms being thrown at the film regard the alleged hipocracy of its themes. It centers around a group of FBI agents from the cyber crimes division, whose job of tracking a nation full of “torture porn” or “snuff film” enthusiasts is growing as fast as the future is approaching. The movie is clearly making a point that Americans have become all-too obsessed with torturous acts, to the point of considering them entertainment. This is certainly true as far as national audience reaction is concerned, with films along the lines of Saw and The Hills Have Eyes drawing major crowds and spawning sequels that frequently get turned into studio meal-ticket franchises. Although Untraceable is taking a stand and calling out torture films like the aformentioned atrocities, many are accusing it of being no different and in the same league as those stylized, brainless pieces of garbage. This is something I do not agree, even if I can understand how some could react this harshly.

One of the persuading elements of the film is the central casting of Diane Lane, an actress that can immediately add credibility to a role or even an entire movie, and just by showing up. She turns in a very fine performance as Jennifer Marsh, an agent who is a widower, mother of one, and existing in that very familiar world of crime fighting heroine cliches, letting her job consume her while she battles with the uncontrollable grief of losing a companion to the very same field. There is really nothing new brought to the table character-wise in Untraceable, but what it lacks in that department it makes up for in other areas. Curiosities are sparked (at least mine are) when one ponders the impact the internet has had on our world, and what this film does is let us peek inside the everyday workings of those behind the scenes, involved in tracking the actions of those using the limitless technology in harmful ways, like hackers or predators, etc. The film has a fresh quality because it really focuses on the cyber crime investigation far more than any film I’ve seen to this point in Hollywood, and in the hands of a seasoned suspense director like Hoblit, (Primal Fear, Fallen, Fracture) it is slick and effective. The focus of the film involves an internet killer that hosts a website called “killwithme.com”, which puts human beings on a stage and up for sadistic ways of being tortured. The individual is a mastermind of both internet technology and contraption architecture, and in combining each of these skills creates a website that determines how fast the victim’s fate approaches by however many people visit it.

This is where the lashings come in from critics everywhere, accusing the film of wanting to “have its cake and eat it too” by speaking out against “torture porn”, yet displaying these images itself. I have a simple counter argument to that accusation, which is simply that this movie has an obligation to itself to be a suspenseful thriller while still getting a thoughtful and important point across, which means that it still has to portray horrible and disgusting acts of violence if that’s what the antagonizing themes represent. The movie has a handful of moments that are almost painful to watch, but the film is never executed in a way that makes it seem like an entertaining thing being created for our standing ovations or enjoyment. Yes, it is hard to sit through at times, and maybe even in a way like some of those brainless films mentioned earlier, but there is a point to continue treading through to the end with Jennifer Marsh in Untraceable. I will appreciate and remember this movie for being really the first to come out and tackle an important detriment to our society. It is certainly not a perfectly made movie that can become a classic, but I certainly will not let it slip my mind, and I hope it finds a comfortable home on video later this year. Another quick comment on the film – I think Colin Hanks does considerably good supporting work in this movie, and I anticipate very good things from him in the near future.

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4 Responses to “Effective “Untraceable” a misunderstood thriller”

  1. anyon82 Says:

    tt

  2. Ferguson Says:

    tt? I’m not sure I completely understand this comment of yours…can you assist me?

  3. Robert Says:

    I have wanted to see this film, but I was worried that it was just another Fear Dot Com! Your review will allow me to see this film with a clear conscience! haha

  4. Ferguson Says:

    You have my word that it will not be one of “those” types, for sure. I’d like to know what you think of it when you get around to taking a look.

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