A cyberthriller to brave the snow for?
Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. I came to a movie with a heavy bias, almost certain as a result of the trailers and the time of year it’s being released that Untraceable was going to be a piece of crap. In fact, I was prematurely patting myself on the back for planning on saying ‘Untraceable’ would have been more appropriately titled ‘Unwatchable.’ But I’m a big girl (control yourselves), and I can admit when I was wrong—even if it does mean sacrificing such a witty line.
In Untraceable, Diane Lane (Hollywoodland, Unfaithful) stars as Jennifer Marsh, a single mom/FBI agent who spends her nights with coworker Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks) stalking predators on the Internet in the FBI’s special Portland, Oregon cybercrimes unit. All is going relatively well until a serial killer turns up with a website called KillWithMe.com, through which he enacts ingeniously evil ways to not only kill his victims, and not only broadcast the murders via webcam for everyone to see, but to rig it up so that the more people log on, the faster his victims die. It is literally a case of curiosity killing the cat.
As I said, I didn’t even harbor the dimmest of hope going into the theater to see Untraceable. It seemed at best like another predictable Internet/serial killer/crime thriller, and the trailer, frankly, made it look positively hokey. As it turns out, though, Untraceable was actually pretty decent. Sure, there were gratuitous mouthfuls of techno-jargon, but by and large Lane and Hanks (King Kong, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny) both treated the material with dignity that in fluffier actors’ hands could have dissolved into the standard schlock. And while the script’s set ups and ideas (by screenwriters Robert Fyvolent, Mark Brinker, and Allison Burnett) are fairly predictable, they are executed well and the structure (in what I’m beginning to think of as typical Burnett style) actually veers a little from the expected, which keeps things interesting.
Most significantly, director Gregory Hoblit (Fracture, Hart’s War) tries to follow in the footsteps of worthy predecessors The Silence of the Lambs and Seven by letting a surprising amount of the hard-to-watch stuff unfold before the camera. And although Untraceable isn’t quite as impressive as either of those two movies, it certainly got closer than I'd expected. Hoblit knows how to show just enough to get visceral cringes from his audience to up the tension without going overboard. I’m not usually one for even the slightest whiff of torture porn, but it totally worked for me.
In short, if you aren’t a fan of scary thrillers, you’re going to want to give this one a wide berth. But if you’re aching for your next dose of suspense drama adrenaline, Untraceable may just do the trick.