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Diane Lane Couldn't Save Untraceable From Stupidity

Jun 8, 2008 (Updated Oct 8, 2008)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: OK

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Pros:Diane Lane. Plot had potential.

Cons:Failed to reach potential. Characters did stupid things. Not suspenseful.

The Bottom Line: Untraceable failed to live up to the potential it had to be a good suspense thriller.

I am usually willing to give suspense thrillers a chance even though many of them that I have seen have turned out to be not so good. Untraceable was another one that I thought failed to live up to the potential that it had.

Jennifer Marsh and Griffin Dowd were FBI agents who worked in a special unit devoted to dealing with internet crime. They started investigating a website that showed a man confined and slowly dying as more people logged onto the site. More victims turned up on the site, each being slowly killed in a different, elaborate way. Jennifer was put in charge of a joint task force to find the killer which put her in the sights of the killer.

I remember seeing the trailers for Untraceable which is what made me think the movie might be good. Even at that point, I had concerns that too much was shown in them and I was right. That eliminated all the suspense and any surprises from the movie. Some of the things may seem like small details, but one they are put all together, way too much was shown. There was even something that made it very clear in my opinion that something was going to happen to Jennifer. I hate when trailers give away too much, especially when the movie in question is supposed to be a suspenseful thriller.

When I first saw a trailer for Untraceable, I did think it had a unique idea for the plot. After seeing the movie and thinking about it more, I don’t it was as unique as I had thought originally. All the elaborate things the killer built to kill the victims seemed to be a bit like the things used in Saw. Having the deaths stream live over the internet was a bit different, as was having the traffic to the site impact how fast the person would die. This movie wasn’t as gory as Saw and the victims were chosen for a different reason, but I do see similarities between the movies. It would have been nice if things had been a bit more original. I won’t say that the internet aspect of the movie was unbelievable because there probably are a lot of people who would go to a site like that. The movie never explored what would make people visit a site like that, which would have made the movie stronger.

I did think that Untraceable had all sorts of potential that ultimately went nowhere fast. The movie was decent at the beginning with an interesting premise with how the killer was committing his crimes. Then everything just started falling apart. For a movie that was supposed to be a suspenseful thriller, there really wasn’t anything suspenseful or thrilling going on. There was no mystery about anything either. The killer was shown very early in the movie and there weren’t even questions about his motivations since that was spelled out by Jennifer in another scene. The only clue that turned up was somewhat obscure and of course Jennifer was able to figure it out all by herself. There was nothing for the audience to try to figure out, so they are just regulated to watching the victims die.

What bothered me most about Untraceable was how it took a detour to Stupidville that it couldn’t recover from. That made it very obvious that the screenwriter had no clue how to get to the intended point in a somewhat logical, intelligent manner. Jennifer seemed to be intelligent early in the movie. As things progressed, she started to do stupid things. It was clear at one point that the killer had figured out who she was and where she lived among other things. After that point, Jennifer kept doing things that weren’t that smart, like running around by herself even though it seemed like a crazy killer was targeting her. She did things that any normal person with an ounce of self preservation wouldn’t do. She was incredibly stupid for an FBI agent, especially when she did what had to the dumbest thing I’ve seen a character do in a movie in a long time. I was willing to overlook the other stupid things Jennifer did before that, but this one act was so stupid, there was no overlooking it. What she did was the equivalent of the young, pretty female intended victim in a slasher movie running upstairs instead of out a door. Actually, I think it was worse since Jennifer was an FBI agent and not an air head or ditzy dingbat co-ed. The movie did another turn and made her smart and capable again for the conclusion. By that point, it was too late to recover from the stupidity.

There was a lot of disturbing stuff going on in Untraceable. People were being killed in horrible ways and it was all streamed live on the internet. The movie wasn’t as graphic as it could have been, but it was bad enough during a few scenes. The victims were shown as they were basically tortured to death and it was not pleasant. Certain things will be too graphic for some viewers. The movie deserved the R rating and is not something that children of any age should see.

Since Jennifer and Griffin worked in the special unite dedicated to internet crimes there was a lot of technical stuff going on in Untraceable. I have no clue if those things were accurate or not. The killer was did a lot of things with computers and technology as well. I have no idea if everything he did is possible either or not. I certainly hope it isn’t.

The killer was made to look brilliant while the FBI, and Jennifer in particular, ended up looking very stupid. Even once the FBI figured out some things they were still making stupid decisions. The killer would have been creepier and more effective if Jennifer hadn’t been turned into a complete moron. Jennifer’s boss - I can’t remember his name now - was around in several scenes, and he didn’t seem too bright either. Griffin did seem to remain smarter than the others, though he didn’t completely escape the stupidity running rampant either. Colin Hanks did fine with what he had to work with.

I have seen Diane Lane in many movies and I have enjoyed most of them. She is very talented and deserves much better roles than this. She did add a bit of credibility to the movie, but it wasn’t enough to save it. She did the best she could with what she had to work with. Jennifer’s mother and daughter were around in a few scenes as well. They seemed to be only around to end up in danger. There did seem to be some hints of some conflict between Jennifer and her mom because of her work, but it went no where.

Eric was a local police detective who was also working on the case. He seemed nice enough, though he really wasn’t developed that much. Billy Burke was fine but nothing special in the part. It did seem like there was an attempt to start a relationship between Jennifer and Eric. There was a tiny bit of sexual tension between them that went no where. All it added was a few minutes to the length of the movie.

Some of the victims were shown before they were captured by the killer. They weren’t around long enough to get developed. All the audience knew about them was what Jennifer and the others involved in the case discovered. Their deaths would have had more impact if they had been developed before they were captured. There were a lot of characters around in the backgrounds that didn’t have much of anything important to do. The killer wasn’t even explored that much either and he was shown entirely too early in the movie. He did seem creepy and twisted, but more could have been done with the character.

Main Cast

Billy Burke - Eric
Colin Hanks - Griffin
Diane Lane - Jennifer

Gregory Hoblit - Director

DVD Information

I saw Untraceable on DVD. The copy I saw was in widescreen. I’m not sure if there is a full screen version available as well. The disc includes commentary with the director, producer, and production designer. There were four behind the scenes featurettes that I wasn’t interested in watching.

Untraceable started off well, but ended up turning into a giant mess. I could have over looked the more minor stupid things that Jennifer did and still enjoyed the movie for the most part. Once she did a hugely stupid thing that anyone with half a brain cell wouldn’t have done, the movie was ruined for me. If it hadn’t been for that, I would have gone with three stars.

Diane Lane Movie Reviews
Hollywoodland ~ Judge Dredd ~ Jumper ~ Under the Tuscan Sun ~ Unfaithful ~

Recommend this product? No

Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: None of the Above
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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