The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: The Cell

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.

“The Cell”
Rated R

Sigmund Freud’s description of the id as “a cauldron full of seething excitations” could just as easily apply to 2000’s “The Cell” — a literal exploration into the darkest, filthiest corners of a serial killer’s mind.

Shaking up the plot by considering its villain’s mental motivation, Mark Protosevich’s script blended “Fantastic Voyage,” “Altered States” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”

When Carl Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio) suffers a permanent brain injury, it seems his last victim — not yet dead — won’t be found in time. Enter Catherine (Jennifer Lopez), a psychologist able to experimentally enter Carl’s mind — along with FBI agent Novak (Vince Vaughn) — and coax clues to find her. (For an idea of the acting risks Lopez and Vaughn once took before resorting to calculated image building, look no further than “The Cell.”)

Within Stargher’s mental flotsam and jetsam — where he’s fashioned himself both a helpless child and a violent, horned king — director Tarsem Singh created disquieting tableaus (such as a vivisected horse) while Howard Shore’s score clattered like Stargher’s cacophonous thoughts.

“The Cell” also bravely works out Stargher’s equation of sadism with his salvation. He sees a seizure suffered during a baptism as giving him proximity to God. Stargher’s father uses religion as a crutch for the cruelty he shows his child. And, in Stargher’s mind, the Stations of the Cross morph into pictures of pain.

Stylish, but not for style’s sake, “The Cell” took religious iconography to chilling, thought-provoking places that allowed us to mourn the makeup of its murderer.

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4 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: The Cell”

  1. […] Brothers The Brothers Bloom Cache Capote Capturing the Friedmans Casino Royale (2006) Cast Away The Cell Changing Lanes Charlie Wilson’s War Cherish Chicago Chicken Run Children of Men Cinderella Man […]

  2. […] 2002 — just two years after his breakthrough, “The Cell,” hit theaters — director Tarsem Singh began production on “The Fall.” It’s a dark 1920s-set […]

  3. Nick Rogers says:

    Corey: Vince Vaughn’s agents and accountants would lay down in traffic to keep him from going near a role like this one again. Even though he’s the weak link in the cast, he’s still more interesting than he has been in anything over the last four years. I loved "The Fall," too, and I hope we get more than two additional movies from Tarsem Singh in the next decade.

  4. Corey Miller says:

    To me The Cell is an often overlooked film. Visually, it goes from mirky and grimy to bright and beautiful. D’onofrio did an excellent job as the "vilian" and, forgive me it’s been a while since I’ve watched it, but Vaughn didn’t come off as the same type of character he’s been playing recently. I also thought a lot of the props and settings were very imaginative and unique. Because of this film I tried to watch The Fall but felt myself bored w/it and couldn’t finish it. The Cell, however, should be seen at least once.