Effective thrillers play on the sense of anticipation. Enjoyment isn’t derived from the denouncement but from unearthing well hidden clues. Mixing current obsessions with cyberspace celebrity, Untraceable brings a new sheen to expected plot twists. With a strong female lead, this grisly film taps into the dark recesses of people’s voyeurism.
FBI agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) investigates the murky web world of cybercrime. Notified of a new sinister website, Jennifer is horrified to discover its’ main purpose. With every hit the site achieves, the instruments of torture to which a victim is attached brings them closer to death. When her colleagues and family are placed in danger, Jennifer finds that the internet’s deadly reach extends beyond its digital devices.
Delivering a message with suspense, Untraceable generally succeeds. By putting on a unique horror show, the villain offers something new for savvy internet watchers. In the ultimate audience participation, they make the choice between life and death with the psychopath’s hands remaining bloodless. This adds a novel angle to a sometimes predictable film perhaps lingering too long on horrific death. Infusing ‘Saw’-like gore with routine detective work, the film tries to cater to new audiences with old fashioned scenarios. The mixed results are a cut above other films who wear their modern contrivances with aching self consciousness.
Diane Lane gives a very earthy performance matching her strong acting. Lacing vulnerability with toughness, her character holds together a film occasionally straining credibility. The other cast are somewhat peripheral, although they infuse their roles with some individuality. Gregory Hoblit’s almost lethargic direction pads out certain scenes unnecessarily slowing pacing. The central story provides a plausible reason for the killings effectively tying into the black maestro’s techno terror.
Untraceable’s tense atmospherics are mostly maintained till the end. Less following of standard formula could have given things their own identity. With the internet’s increasing influence over our lives, the film brings new meaning to the phrase ‘I like to watch’.
Rating out of 10: 6
Manipulation is an untruth wrapped in a seductive veneer. Predatory manipulators target the gullible who continually dream of a higher status. Deception’s sharply attired schemer uses his skills as his main aphrodisiac. With the central story and characters in place, the film unfortunately succumbs to unfocused direction and terminal mis-casting. Like its title audiences become the victims of their own cinematic deception.
Lonely accountant Jonathan (Ewan McGregor) spends his days auditing wealthy firms’ books. Tired of his solitary existence, he becomes entranced by businessman Wyatt (Hugh Jackman). Inviting him into his social circle, Wyatt gives Jonathan the taste of the good life. After mistakenly procuring Wyatt’s phone, Jonathan becomes involved with ‘The List’, a sex club for high flying executives. Becoming enraptured with one of its clients known as S (Michelle Williams), his undoing begins when he is trapped in an apparent murder and heist. This leads to the susceptible player regretting his midnight rendezvous.
Deception attempts to convey how someone can become an unwitting puppet. The sprinkling of money and good times caresses the victim into doing their controller’s bidding. What’s fascinating is how ‘The List’ represents its participants desire to create their own private world fulfilling their sense of ambitious self worth. Although these aspects are infinitely intriguing, they are tossed away by plot holes bigger than Wyatt’s empty promises. The supposed shocking plot twists are telegraphed early with clunky dialogue detracting from what should have been an involving experience.
Casting people for the right roles is something Deception ignores. Hugh Jackman doesn’t have the ruthless streak required to be believable with his charming cad vanishing for long stretches. Ewan McGregor’s wild reputation precedes him as his bookish loner never rings true. Williams adds some noir-ish touches in her femme fatale role although it’s too fleeting to create any real impact. The digital cinematography successfully captures the nightscapes the characters thrive which considerably adds to the atmosphere.
The routine path Deception follows subtracts its interesting elements. Ending with an inexplicably ludicrous conclusion, the early good work is sadly undone. With better films going straight to DVD, Deception proves that star power alone can elevate a dud to a theatrical release.
Rating out of 10: 3