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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
More Phone Suspense
by Betty Jo Tucker

I purchased my first cell phone last week, and after spending three days trying to activate it, I decided it must be an instrument of the devil. But now that I've seen Cellular, a suspenseful thriller reminiscent of Sorry, Wrong Number, I realize this newfangled contraption could be a lifesaver. And I hope if I’m ever in a dangerous spot, someone like Ryan, played superbly by Chris Evans, answers his cell phone when I call for help.

At the beginning of the movie, Ryan comes across as just a fun-loving young guy with girlfriend problems. Chloe (Jessica Biel) thinks he’s too irresponsible. To get back in her good graces, Ryan agrees to run an errand. While driving on this mission, he answers his cell phone. On the other end of the call is Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger), a wife and mother who’s been kidnapped. She says he’s the only one who can save her.

Perhaps to prove to himself he's a responsible adult, Ryan becomes deeply involved in trying to rescue a person he’s never met. He steals cars, races through heavy Los Angeles traffic, and even uses a gun to obtain a charger for his cell phone. With his boyish good looks and Owen Wilson-like charm, Evans (The Perfect Score) made me care a great deal about Ryan and what was happening to him.      

Why didn’t Jessica call the police instead of Ryan? Because she has no control over who receives her call. Jessica, a high school science teacher, has fiddled with the wiring on a smashed wall phone in the attic where she’s held captive. As the movie progresses, Ryan learns that Jessica’s son (Adam Taylor Gordon) and husband (Richard Burgi) are also in jeopardy.

Who are these kidnappers and what do they want from the Martins? Thanks to director David Ellis (Final Destination 2) and Chris Morgan's first screenplay (from a story by Phone Booth’s Larry Cohen), that information isn’t revealed until just the right time. The pacing of this thriller seemed almost perfect to me. Despite several car chases, one long shoot-em up scene, and plot reliance on phone conversations, I never felt anything was overdone or repetitive.     

While Evans steals the movie with his breakthrough performance, other cast members deserve recognition for their excellent work. Basinger (The Door in the Floor) reaches new emotional depths with her heart-wrenching portrayal of a mother who will do anything to save her son. And William H. Macy’s (The Cooler) dead-pan interpretation of a policeman who finally realizes the truth about Jessica’s kidnapping adds welcome comic relief to the film’s intense drama. 

Cellular is certainly an appropriate title for this movie. Cell phones appear in practically every scene. One cell phone user who's driving his car shouts at another to “get off the phone and watch your driving!” The head kidnapper (a very scary Jason Stratham) thinks his cohort can identify Ryan because he’s “the one with the cell phone” -- when everyone in the crowd being observed is using a cell phone. Which reminds me, I wonder if my cell is phone working now? Better go check.

(Released by New Line Cinema and rated “PG-13” for violence, terror situations, language an some sexual references.)  

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