The Cell (Blu-ray Review)

The CellIn this science fiction thriller, child psychiatrist Catherine Deane (Golden Globe-nominee Jennifer Lopez “Selena,” “Maid in Manhattan”) has developed a technique that allows her to travel through the minds of her patients. When Stargher (Emmy Award-nominee Vincent DOnofrio TV’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Full Metal Jacket”), a serial killer who methodically drowns his victims and performs bizarre rituals with their bodies, falls into a coma, FBI agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn “Wedding Crashers,” “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”) asks Deane to enter the killers psyche in hopes of finding the location of a missing girl whom Stargher has kidnapped and, if she isn’t found soon, will drown in her torture cell. However, once Deanne enters the bizarre world of Starghers mind, she finds getting out being a very difficult matter.  

The Cell


The Cell was Tarsem’s feature film debut – which premiered 15 years ago in the summer of 2000. The film stars Jennifer Lopez as Catherine Deane, a psychotherapist working with a group and technique of being able to go into the subconscious of her patients. She acts as a guide of sorts trying to lead them back to the light, if you will. Out on the loose is serial killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio) and on his trail is FBI agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn).

Stargher has been kidnapping women and drowning them via a water chamber of his own design, bleaching the bodies, and then dumping them. Stargher is in the midst of torturing his latest victim from a remote location but has an apparent seizure of some sort and is rendered comatose. With the clock ticking down Novak finds out about Catherine’s method of treatment and wonders if they can use her to travel into Carl’s mind to get the information on the latest victim before it’s too late.

I remember the anticipation for The Cell all those many years ago and I was not disappointed then by the whole spectacle. The visuals are grotesque and beautiful and the staging of them made it seem like living breathing art in front of you. What about the story? Well, back then it was fine, but took a back seat to the visuals. It was a “style over substance” film. How does it stand the test of time now? I would say that the story is still the weakest part of the film. The visuals still astound to this day and Tarsem has now done more films since then.

Seeing Jennifer Lopez, as a psychotherapist is sort of groan inducing, because come on, it’s J.Lo. Someone who fares better now than he did back then playing the serious agent role is Vince Vaughn. I remember back then he got some flack for his role as the tired looking FBI agent who would do anything and everything to get the victim back safe. Yeah, I’d say after watching the new season of True Detective he has come a long way in terms of being a dramatic actor. Now the person that does shine in their role of twisted killer is Vincent D’Onofrio. He goes from being practically nobody to an awesome looking angel of death in the subconscious world where he’s a God and everyone in it is his loyal subject. He has an awesome throne and hoops to his back link the draperies and they slowly peel off the walls as he walks down to inspect intruders of his domain.

The visual effects still hold up rather well – it was a 30 million dollar picture but the meat and potatoes of the story are still its weakest and I think I like it just a bit less this time out than I did then and even on DVD. The Cell has finally been released on Blu-ray here in the U.S. and at a great price. I am a Tarsem fan through and through and I do recommend it purely on its visual aesthetic alone. Skip the story but stay for dessert.


The Cell


Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: The bright desert scenes in the beginning of the film appear to be the most problematic. They are grainy, which is fine, but edge enhancement and aliasing artifacts do creep in. It’s a bit distracting but I am glad that it was only in the beginning. Once we get deep into the film the image stabilizes.

Depth: Carl Stargher is one messed up individual but the chaotic imagery in his head is amazing. You’ll feel like you’re trapped in his mind.

Black Levels: Black levels are fine. I didn’t spot crush.

Color Reproduction: The color palette Does stand out a bit in some scenes but in most it’s really subdued.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones look fine. Vince looks really pasty and tired but that’s a clear staple of the man is it not?

Noise/Artifacts: A speckle here and there but it’s okay.

The Cell


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Now the lossless soundtrack for The Cell is borderline reference material. This is the best the film has sounded since the theater. It’s extremely aggressive without being oppressive. The sound field really envelops the viewer.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE subwoofer really gives everything a big kick in the pants especially when deep effects or low voices come into play. The subwoofer kicks it up a notch in those spots.

Surround Sound Presentation: The rear surround sound channels give the subconscious scenes more depth – there’s plenty of room back there as some of the characters literally fly around.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clean and clear.


The Cell


 All of the extras on the Blu-ray are ported over from the New Line Platinum Series DVD. There is no new material or retrospective material. In fact the material ported over – I have a hard time saying that it’s real HD since it doesn’t look all that great. I guess the material could be upscaled even though it’s still presented in AVC/MPEG-4. In any event we get a couple of commentary tracks by Tarsem, the production and visual effects team, delete scenes, a Tarsem retrospective of his past work, and a visual effects vignette split into 6 sequences. Trailers round out the special features package.

  • Feature-Length Commentary: Director
  • Feature-Length Commentary: Production Team
  • Original Documentary Style as Substance: Reflections on Tarsem – Several of Tarsem’s Collaborators Reflect on His Work
  • Visual-Effects Vignettes: An Alternate-Angle Fetaure in Which 6 Special Effects Sequences Are Explored
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Trailers


The Cell


Call me jaded but The Cell isn’t really all that deep. Granted, it never was, but being younger and just wanting some eye candy in those days was enough, now, not so much. The Blu-ray is top notch in the audio and special features section (even if they are ported over from the DVD) but the video transfer could have been better. There are several scenes, mostly in the desert scenes, where edge enhancement, aliasing, and other anomalies rear their ugly head. In any event, if you’re a Tarsem fan like me, you will want to own The Cell on Blu-ray. It is the epitome of style over substance.



The Cell is now available on Blu-ray!







The Cell


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

Comments are currently closed.