The Cell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the 2016 film, see Cell (film).
For other uses, see The Cell (disambiguation).
The Cell
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tarsem Singh
Produced by Julio Caro
Eric McLeod
Written by Mark Protosevich
Starring Jennifer Lopez
Vince Vaughn
Vincent D'Onofrio
Jake Weber
Dylan Baker
Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Music by Howard Shore
Master Musicians of Jajouka
Cinematography Paul Laufer
Edited by Robert Duffy
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date
  • August 18, 2000 (2000-08-18) (United States)
Running time
107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $33 million
Box office $104,155,843

The Cell is a 2000 American science fiction psychological thriller film and the directorial debut of Tarsem Singh, starring Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn and Vincent D'Onofrio. It received mixed reviews upon its release, with critics praising the visuals, direction, make-up, costumes and D'Onofrio's performance while critcizing the Silence of the Lambs-inspired plot, an emphasis on style rather than substance, and masochistic imagery.


Child psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) is an expert in an experimental treatment for coma patients: a virtual reality device that allows her to enter into the minds of her patients and attempt to coax them into consciousness. When serial killer Carl Rudolph Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio) falls into a coma before the FBI can locate his final victim, Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) persuades Deane to enter Stargher's mind and discover the victim's location.[1] Stargher's victim is imprisoned in a cell in the form of a glass enclosure that is slowly filling with water by means of an automatic timer.

Deane enters Stargher's twisted mind, where she is confronted by both the violent and the innocent parts of the killer's psyche. The innocent half shows her the abuse he suffered at his father's hands and the birth of his pathology when he drowned an injured bird as a mercy killing. Deane attempts to nurture the innocent side of Stargher's mind, but his murderous half thwarts her at every turn.

Despite Deane's best efforts, she becomes trapped in Stargher's dark dreamscape. Novak volunteers to enter Stargher's mind and attempts to rescue Deane. He frees her from Stargher's hold and discovers clues to the whereabouts of his victim. Novak relates his revelations to his team and they are able to track down the location of Stargher's victim (Stargher had been entrusted by a company to take care of an advanced water pump, which he used to fill the cell with water). Novak discovers Stargher's secret underground room and saves Stargher's victim just in time. Meanwhile, Deane decides to reverse the process and pull Stargher's mind into her own. She presents Stargher's innocent side with a paradise, but his murderous side is always present and manifests as a serpent. This time, however, Deane has all the power; she attacks the serpent/Stargher only to discover that she cannot destroy one half without killing the other. Stargher's innocent side reminds her of the bird he drowned, and she kills him to put him out of his misery. She adopts Stargher's dog and successfully uses her new technique on her other coma patient (Colton James).


Artistic influences[edit]

Some of the scenes in The Cell are inspired by works of art. A scene in which a horse is split into sections by falling glass panels was inspired by the works of British artist Damien Hirst. The film also includes scenes based on the work of other late 20th century artists, including Odd Nerdrum, H. R. Giger and the Brothers Quay. Tarsem—who began his career directing music videos such as En Vogue's "Hold On" and R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion"—drew upon such imagery for Stargher's dream sequences. In particular, he was influenced by videos directed by Mark Romanek, such as "Closer" and "The Perfect Drug" by Nine Inch Nails, "Bedtime Story" by Madonna,[2] and the many videos that Floria Sigismondi directed for Marilyn Manson. During a scene, Jennifer Lopez falls asleep watching a film; the film is Fantastic Planet.

In the scene where Catherine talks with Carl while he is "cleaning" his first victim, the scenery resembles the music video "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M.. The scene where Peter Novak first enters the mind of Carl Stargher, and is confronted by three females with open mouths to the sky is based on the painting Dawn by Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum. The scene when Catherine Deane is chasing Carl through a stone hallway, right before she enters the room with the horse, is based on a painting by H. R. Giger called "Schacht".

A psychiatrist entering the dreams of an insane patient in order to take control of the dreams and so to cure the patient's mind (this being a very risky attempt, because the insanity may prevail during such "neuro-participatory therapy") was described in the novella He Who Shapes (1965) by Roger Zelazny, but the film Dreamscape (1984), subsequently developed from Zelazny's basic idea, had a completely different plot.

Additional information[edit]

Director Tarsem Singh asked Tara Subkoff, during her interview, if she could swim, to which she responded that she could and that she had been a lifeguard. It turned out that she could not go underwater without holding her nose. Singh would have switched her role with Catherine Sutherland, but it was too late and there was not enough money or time to re-shoot.[3]

The scene where the Special Agents are trying to convince Dr. Catherine Deane to enter the killer's mind was recorded at the Barcelona Pavilion in Barcelona, Spain.


Critical reaction to The Cell has been mixed, with a score of 46% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 146 reviews with the site's consensus reporting that "The Cell offers disturbing, stunning eye candy, but it is undermined by a weak and shallow plotline that offers nothing new."[4]

One of the most positive reviews came from Roger Ebert, who awarded the film four stars out of four, writing: "For all of its visual pyrotechnics, it's also a story where we care about the characters; there's a lot at stake at the end, and we're involved. I know people who hate it, finding it pretentious or unrestrained; I think it's one of the best films of the year."[5] Ebert later placed the film on his list of "The Best 10 Movies of 2000", writing: "Tarsem, the director, is a visual virtuoso who juggles his storylines effortlessly; it's dazzling, the way he blends so many notes, styles and genres into a film so original."[6] James Berardinelli gave the film three stars out of four, writing: "The Cell becomes the first serial killer feature in a long time to take the genre in a new direction. Not only does it defy formulaic expectations, but it challenges the viewer to think and consider the horrors that can turn an ordinary child into an inhuman monster. There are no easy answers, and The Cell doesn't pretend to offer any. Instead, Singh presents audiences with the opportunity to go on a harrowing journey. For those who are up to the challenge, it's worth spending time in The Cell."[7] Peter Travers from Rolling Stone wrote that "Tarsem uses the dramatically shallow plot to create a dream world densely packed with images of beauty and terror that cling to the memory even if you don't want them to."

Conversely, Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post called it "contrived", "arbitrary", and "overdrawn".[8] Slate's David Edelstein panned the film as well, writing: "When I go to a serial-killer flick, I don't want to see the serial killer (or even his inner child) coddled and empathized with and forgiven. I want to see him shot, stabbed, impaled, eviscerated, and finally engulfed—shrieking—in flames. The Cell serves up some of the most gruesomely misogynistic imagery in years, then ends with a bid for understanding."[9] Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader remarked, "There's almost no plot here and even less character—just a lot of pretexts for S&M imagery, Catholic decor, gobs of gore, and the usual designer schizophrenia."[10] Empire Magazine gave the film two stars out of five, stating that "at times beautiful and always disturbing, this is strangely devoid of meaning."

The film received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Makeup.


Award Category Nominees Result
Academy Awards Best Make-Up Michèle Burke and Edouard F. Henriques Nominated
Art Directors Guild Period or Fantasy Film Tom Foden (production designer), Geoff Hubbard (art director), Michael Manson (art director), Guy Hendrix Dyas (assistant art director) Nominated
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actress - Science Fiction Jennifer Lopez Won
Favorite Actor - Science Fiction Vince Vaughn Nominated
Favorite Supporting Actor - Science Fiction Vincent D'Onofrio Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Female Performance Jennifer Lopez Nominated
Best Villain Vincent D'Onofrio Nominated
Best Dressed Jennifer Lopez Won
Saturn Awards Best Science Fiction Film The Cell Nominated
Best Actress Jennifer Lopez Nominated
Best Make-Up Michèle Burke and Edouard F. Henriques Nominated
Best costumes Eiko Ishioka Nominated
World Stunt Awards Best High Work Jill Brown Won


Main article: The Cell 2

A sequel was released direct to DVD on June 16, 2009. The story centers on The Cusp, a serial killer who murders his victims, and then brings them back to life, over and over again until they beg to die. Maya (Tessie Santiago) is a psychic investigator and surviving victim of The Cusp, whose abilities developed after spending a year in a coma. Maya must use her powers to travel into the mind of the killer unprotected, in order to save his latest victim.


External links[edit]