Tuesday, 17 March 2009


One of the movies I most enjoyed in 2008 was Fracture, a splendidly clever new take on the ‘impossible crime’ concept, directed by Gregory Hoblit, so I jumped at the chance to see his latest, Untraceable. Again, it’s a movie with merit – the production values are high, and the action moves at a rapid pace - but overall, it is not in the same league as Fracture.

One reason is the casting. Anthony Hopkins was brilliant in Fracture. The actors in Untraceable are more than competent – notably Diane Lane, as a lone mother FBI agent – but somehow seem to lack true star quality. More important, though, is the fact that although there are some intelligent aspects to the film, ultimately it has a slightly exploitative, and at the same time predictable, feel.

In essence,.the idea is that a serial killer based in Portland, USA, is murdering people in slow and agonising ways and streaming their torture on to an internet site. The more people who view, the quicker the victim dies. There is some interesting stuff here, around the voyeuristic nature of the viewers, and their often unpleasant (but, unfortunately, not implausible) comments on what they are seeing. The trouble is that balancing this against a clock-race thriller, the film’s audience is in danger of joining up with the voyeurs. Making an internet-related movie work isn’t that easy, although this is an improvement on some efforts I’ve seen. But although it has gripping moments, it does not avoid the trap of cliché.

A BBC film critic put it well, when she said that Untraceable, ‘feels as if it’s been patched together using “auto-fill screenwriting software’. And there are plot holes. Why did Lane put herself in a situation where she was vulnerable to the psycho-killer? How did the bad guy organise the set-up for his final crime? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and I’m not convinced Mr Hoblit did, either.


David Cranmer said...

I stay clear of many films because of "auto-fill screenwriting software." It seems to be a prominent problem these days.

Martin Edwards said...

David, I agree. It's a shame, because the basic idea of this story was a good one.