a critiQal film review Untraceable (2008)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: In the cybercrimes division of the FBI, Special Agent Jennifer Marsh (Lane) is hunting a tech-savvy internet predator who is displaying his graphic murders on his own website. The fate of each of his tormented captives is left in the hands of the public: the more hits his site gets, the faster his victims die. When this game of cat and mouse becomes personal, Marsh and her team must race against the clock to track down this technical mastermind.

607 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 2s)

Despite an interesting premise, Untraceable didn’t seem to stick around too long in theaters back in January. Still, we were intrigued by the premise of a website encouraging viewers to help in murder, so we decided to check it out once it hit DVD.

Diane Lane does a decent job in Untraceable. She plays the lead FBI Agent in the cybercrimes department, and manages to juggle both work and raising a daughter with only the help of her mom. She plays the high-tech role with ease, seeming very familiar with all the gadgets at her disposal, yet she manages to bring an old-school charm to the role as well, helping her create a decent bond with the audience.

Colin Hanks, on the other hand, probably got the role only because his dad is so famous (yes, he’s Tom’s son), rather than any acting prowess on his part. While was funny, Colin was most definitely the weakest link in that film – and he doesn’t seem to have improved much over the years. Thankfully, the filmmakers limit his speaking lines, so he doesn’t do as much to distract from the film as he could.

The rest of the characters, including the finally-revealed villain, are mostly just faces on camera, as the burden of carrying this film falls almost solely on Diane’s seasoned shoulders. While she does a good job of creating that bond with the audience, the film doesn’t do a lot to help her out.

With the interesting premise, the audience would think this would be a high-octane thriller. Unfortunately, they’d be at least partially wrong. While the tension builds quite nicely in the beginning of the film, the film ends up degenerating into a horror film, complete with ridiculously cheesy ending and a lot of predictability.

The audience can easily guess what’s going to happen almost from the start of the film, so the tension can’t be as palpable as the filmmakers were aiming for. With a foregone conclusion, the real thrill-factor of a thriller like Untraceable loses a lot of it’s appeal.

While the journey is still interesting – at least through most of the film – the climactic final battle leaves a lot to be desired, thanks in part to the ending that’s becoming more painfully obvious with each passing second.

Still, Diane Lane’s performance goes a long way toward making Untraceable work anyway, but there’s a dichotomy to the film that helps erode the viewer’s confidence in that performance.

Just like , the killer puts his victims in a lot of ingenious traps, sure to cause large amount of gore – yet, despite the film’s R rating, that gore is not really shown. Sure, snippets here and there, but never the gore-fest one expects after witnessing the traps. Instead, the gore is left mostly muted, heard of off-screen from horrified voices, but never depicted on-screen as much as the viewer would expect.

And that’s the problem – Untraceable can’t decide whether it’s a thriller or horror. If it’s a thriller, the lack of large amounts of gore seems justified – yet, with the rather cruel traps, the filmmakers give the viewer the false sense this is actually a horror film…and when the gore arrives in lot smaller quantities, the viewer is actually a bit disappointed.

Untraceable wastes it’s rather ingenious plot on trying to blur the line between thriller and horror – and ending up just straddling the fence, somewhat of a disappointment to fans of either genre.

Unfortunately, Untraceable is another thriller that doesn’t quite meet up to expectations, and does little to separate itself from the crowd – despite Diane Lane.

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