‘Untraceable’ explores dark side of the Web
The Internet has become the great place to explore the darker side of life, be it virtual or real. It seems almost too easy to sign on as an anonymous individual and post whatever message of hate or vile diatribe, believing you are immune from the outside world. Just look at how easy it has become for hackers to steal one’s identity or launch thousands of viruses, all with the intention of disrupting people on the other side unaware of what is happening to them just by logging on.
Parents already have their hands full in the “real world,” let alone the virtual world, constantly trying to stay one step ahead of predators who prey on the innocent, passing themselves off as children or teens with the intention of trying to lure the unprotected into their web on the Net.
Such is the background in “Untraceable,” directed by Gregory Hoblit and starring the always-believable and convincing Diane Lane. As an FBI special agent working in the cybercrime division, Jennifer Marsh (Lane) has a vested interest – being a mother – to try and flush out these online sexual predators and thieves robbing us of our identities almost on a daily basis. Marsh and her partner, Griffin Dowd (played by Colin Hanks, Tom’s son), who is pretty savvy on the Web, manage to snare quite a few of these cybercriminals.
Things get pretty disturbing, though, when Marsh discovers a Web site that has been growing in popularity – one that is fueled by the voyeuristic appetite of those anonymous individuals who don’t mind witnessing something horrific, so long as no one knows they are tuning in from the sidelines.
Which begs the question: Why are we like moths drawn to the light, knowing that what is curious also can kill us? I mean, I enjoy a good horror flick as much as the next individual, but usually you know when the monster is killed off, things can return to normal. With a psychological thriller such as “Untraceable” tossing in the whole cyber aspect, it really can take your imagination to a whole different plateau.
I liked “Feardotcom” (2002) because of its premise, even though its ending was a disappointment. Just something about logging on to this Web site, then you’re dead, that appealed to me. Even that early Internet thriller with Sandra Bullock, “The Net” (1995), proved that, in the wrong hands, you’re virtually a nobody stripped of your identity, but back then, the whole “superhighway” thing still was virgin territory, and no one could imagine what the Internet as a character was capable of becoming.
It wasn’t until deaths started appearing in today’s news in the “real world,” perpetrated by someone’s action in the virtual world, that I started to tweak over the possibility of these worlds colliding and what could happen next. Taking the storyline of a serial killer, then fueling the time a person is allowed to live determined by the number of hits on this Web site, is pretty scary, because even the most respectable in society will log on if they think their actions can’t be monitored, even if just to observe the carnage from the sidelines.
Director Hoblit has a proven track record when it comes to psychological thrillers. I still can’t get enough of his “Frequency” (2000), combining the cat-and-mouse chase of an impending murder with time travel. And who can’t remember how on edge you were when you saw his “Primal Fear” (1996), which just proved you really couldn’t trust even your own basic instincts? That movie showed what a great actor the underrated Edward Norton was. More recently, last year’s “Fracture” turned the director’s cat-and-mouse genre into an art form, which is carried over with his latest work exhibited here.
With a great cast (which includes the talented Mary Beth Hurt as Marsh’s mother) and a story that starts your mind wondering if this could really ever happen, “Untraceable” will make you rethink how and where to surf the next time your mind wants to explore the darker side of technology.
Not giving away any spoilers, but let’s just say I now view OnStar a little differently after seeing this movie. In fact, I think I am going to remove all electronic devices from my car now, thank you very much.
– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout Northern California and Nevada, including Sirius Radio. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio, and you can see his film reviews on RSN. For past reviews, blogs, and audio clips, visit http://www.HowieNave.com.
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