Cellular Tries To Make You Want To Break The Law … And Hate Your Cell Phone

Despite social commentary regarding the prevalence of technological reliance and advancement, as well as ideas of lawlessness, Director David R. Ellis’ Cellular remains a typical Hollywood action film. Starring Kim Basinger and William H. Macy, the cast list at first seems to promise noteworthy performances. Basinger and Macy, however, are merely supporting actors with undue billing. Ryan, played by Chris Evans (The Perfect Score) is the focus of the film. Evans is not a recognizable name, yet, he dominates screen time, leaving his well known co-stars to lesser roles. This is unfortunate, as his acting is unpolished and melodramatic throughout the film. On the other hand, Jason Statham (Snatch, The Italian Job) is believably evil as the villain. Overall one would expect more from this cast, but with this plot and script there’s little room for leverage. Cellular is the story of a kidnapped woman, Jessica (Basinger), whose son and husband are next on the list of abductees. Due to a convenient plot twist, Jessica is only able to reach the cell phone of the young, irresponsible Ryan. Wild chase sequences and traffic mishaps through the streets of L.A. liven up the plot, as Ryan races to save Jessica’s family from danger. Beyond the implausible plot line, the film is rife with references to the controlling nature of technology in modern society. Such social commentary coupled with the unbelievable sequence of events makes for a disjointed narrative. One of the most noticeable drawbacks to this film (other than the constant advertising for Nokia and Porsche) is the intense melodrama that permeates every scene. When the audience should be transfixed with the screen and afraid for the character’s lives, we are instead inclined to laugh at the cheesy lines and overly dramatized shots. The audience is confronted with scantily clad beach bunnies and muscle-bound surfers at the beginning and end of the film, but the middle is oddly devoid of this gratuitous exploitation. Whether this was done to pique the audience’s attention, or to sexualize the hero, the point is unclear. This distracting aspect of the film seems to have no validity or connection with the running themes of technology and lawlessness. A prominent theme of this film is disobeying the law and being rewarded for going against social norms. The complete absence of police officers allows Ryan to drive through a construction site, hold up a cell phone store, steal a boarding pass, commandeer a security vehicle and cause a massive pileup – all without repercussions. In the beginning of the film, Ryan seems to be pained when breaking the law, but by the end, as is evident when he steals a new Porsche, he is enjoying his freedom from social constraints. Ryan revs the engine and smiles while pulling a reckless 180 on a busy, four-lane road. The audience is left with the impression that it is fine to break the law, and that one will not be caught if the offender has noble intentions. The soundtrack of Cellular is overall not very noticeable, and as a result, the one scene where music is present seems to stand out even more and contribute to the overall mood of the film. The scene is a fast-paced chase sequence, which instead of being paired with a more dramatic beat, is instead matched with an almost comically lighthearted tune. Sound is again noticeable when it is abruptly taken away, a significant moment of silence in the climax of this scene. If used correctly, sound can be a very effective tool for enhancing audience emotions. Unfortunately, Ellis did not utilize this tool as much as he could have; however, where he did it was done well. Despite this film’s lack of believability, it set a good pace and kept the audience involved. Viewers are encouraged to relate to these themes of lawlessness and will probably be able to recognize technological dominance in their own lives. Overall Cellular relies too heavily on melodrama, and does not provide its strong actors with enough material to strengthen their or the film’s credibility.