Directed by: David R. Ellis
Written by: Chris Morgan
Starring: Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, Jason Statham, Eric Christian Olsen, Noah Emmerich
Technological advances continually change the world in the way we can communicate and get more efficient in all aspects of life. The invention of the cell phone changed the game in the way we can talk with others while not being tethered to a landline. They come into great use in the aptly titled, Cellular, which takes a high concept and turns it into an enjoyable thriller.
Ryan (Chris Evans) plans to spend his day on the Santa Monica pier trying to get his ex-girlfriend back when he receives a random call from a woman claiming to be kidnapped. After having a hard time believing her, Ryan begins to realize the reality of the situation and tries to help her out of this mess.
The concept of this feature is fairly simple, as explained in the plot synopsis. A random call arrives on the phone of Ryan and he must try and help this woman. No real characterization occurs before he answers the phone outside of his ex-girlfriend pointing out his flaws like him being immature. We get a little taste based on the initial interactions he has with the kidnapped woman, Jessica (Kim Basinger), but everything becomes real, which makes him spring to action. Right as the call begins, Cellular turns into a complete thrill ride all the way until its conclusion. It utilizes its star and simple premise to focus on the tension being built as we try to comprehend why a group of men kidnapped Jessica.
Portraying this young man is Chris Evans right on the verge of debuting as Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four. It was swell to see him in his early stages once again. This film falls into the category of movies my mom had the DVD of and I continually watched on repeat at home growing up. Seeing it again so many years later left me being able to quote many of the lines and remember a good amount of the scenes occurring. It thrilled me when much younger and it still holds up today because of Chris Evans and how the character of Ryan shifts into who we were told was immature, but he really steps up to this occasion.
The pacing of this film flies by and it works beautifully with its brisk 94-minute runtime. The story feels very focused in its scope by not focusing on the other relationships and entanglements of either Ryan or Jessica. The film could have easily delved in more with Ryan’s ex-girlfriend and his attempts to get her back, but it would not have helped with the story and would only have elongated the runtime. Instead, it remains solely focused on this mission and each second counts as we learn more about this kidnapping and the ramifications involved.
Rounding out the cast we have Jason Statham as one of the kidnappers, who presents his typical mean mug and bravado to this role. He has the ability to portray heroes or villains depending on his mood and he uses his toughness to become a truly intimidating villain. William H. Macy portrays a cop on the verge of retirement in order to open a spa with his wife. The film plays with the demasculinization of his character because of this decision, but nothing really comes from it other than a nice little jab at the end. Macy brings his usual blend of comedy and tragic acting to this role and becomes a source of comfort and hope in the process.
On a technological level, it’s great to watch this film from the perspective of 2020, as each character sports a Nokia phone. This brand doesn’t have an imprint in society anymore but they were all the rage back in 2004. Much of the technological advances purported in this feature seem like bare minimums with what we have on our hands today. One comes in the form of being able to video record with your phone. In this story, having the ability to do that came as a shock for some, with it being newer technology. In today’s standards, if the recording does not meet a certain standard of professional-level quality then why even put out the product? In a way, the film dates itself with the utilization of this form of communication, but I certainly do not mind because much of the filmmaking style feels incredibly like the 2000s. A nice little capsule for a different time in our lives.
Cellular presents a straightforward but incredibly enjoyable thriller filled with a cast of strong actors. Moments of tension come aplenty as Ryan tries to do his best to stop the kidnappers from killing Jessica. One of the better examples of a reluctant hero and one where we get to take a stroll to a different time not too long ago. Definitely have some affection for this one as I grew up watching it on repeat and I’m glad it still holds up years later.