Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Tod Williams
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack, Owen Teague, Isabelle Fuhrman
The idea behind Cell is relatively simple: Cell phone users are turned into raging monstrosities after receiving a mysterious signal; hold that phone up to your ear and you’re as good as gone. Therefore, those who identify the problem early are able to steer clear of any and all cell usage, leaving them in the obvious minority. Humans aren’t running the world in Cell, zombie-like beasts are running the world. Fortunately for Clay Riddell (John Cusack), he recognizes the disaster in the very moment it happens. But can he survive such an astounding and violent shift in reality, and will the few sane individuals he encounters while seeking shelter be able to put the pieces together and find an effective way to combat the outbreak?
To be entirely honest, I was disappointed by Tod Williams’ film. I can’t pinpoint the exact misfire in the picture, but there’s clearly something missing.
John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson (who plays Tom McCourt) work quite well together. But we already knew that – their chemistry in 1408 was brilliant and generated an engaging dynamic. While they work well together here, once again in a King tale, their onscreen chemistry cannot make up for the picture’s deficiencies.
It feels as though Cell has no pulse (pun not intended). This could easily be any other random zombie tale with a fair budget and a shining cast. But as we all know, sometimes a fair budget and a shining cast isn’t enough to create something special. And as evidenced by this picture, onscreen chemistry isn’t necessarily guaranteed to salvage a production, either.
There’s nothing overtly offensive about the picture, and there are no glaring problems; the dialogue works, the pacing works, the performances work, the imagery is solid, the social commentary is appropriately illuminated… but something doesn’t pan out. And my closest guess would be the seeming lack of passion in the flick.
That leaves me contemplating one serious issue: where’s the heart?
Many supporting performers feel as though (oh boy, here comes another pun) they phoned their performances in. But is that where the movie falls apart? Is it truly the lack of heart? Is it something else entirely? For the first time in a long time, I simply cannot answer that question. What I can say is this: Cell isn’t the jarring film I’d hoped for. Not by a long shot. Rather, it’s awkwardly flat.