You're driving along the road and there's been an accident, police are there and you can't but help slow down to look, it's an almost primal instinct to rubber neck. What about if someone sent you a link to a website where they show people dieing, would you still look, would curiosity get the better of you? It's a rather harsh question but "Untraceable" starring Diane Lane and Colin Hanks throws up a similar question as it combines elements of "The Net" and "Saw" to deliver a modern thriller around dodgy websites and online murder.
Whilst working as a cyber crimes agent Jennifer March (Diane Lane - Unfaithful) finds herself tackling a murderer who streams violent deaths across the internet, with the more people viewing their website the more excruciating the deaths become. Despite her best efforts, Jennifer struggles to bring the website down and finds herself in a very personal battle when the website killer starts to target the cyber crimes agency.
From the opening scenes where we are introduced the website which broadcasts these grizzly deaths "Untraceable" sets the mood of what is to follow. The first online victim maybe just a cute kitten but the whole way this defenceless creature is killed, trapped makes for uneasy viewing playing on your mind despite never seeing anything particularly nasty. But things quickly move on as we are introduced to Jennifer and her set up working as a cyber crimes officer who discovers the website which having tested the water with a kitten moves on to human victims. The whole set up is done quickly but it is also effective because we nowhere we are as we are thrown into the world of dodgy websites and cyber crimes.
Thankfully being a movie which revolves around the internet the techno speak is kept to a minimum. There are scenes when something techie like is said, such as when they are discussing the multiple server configuration and IP ghosting, but its non critical information, just aiding to set the scene of these hi-tech internet cops.
One of the interesting aspects of "Untraceable" is that it poses a question surrounding people's inquisitive nature. Would they be tempted to visit a site if they knew what they would witness is a gruesome death and be contributing to it by doing so. It is similar to the morbid obsession with slowing down as you pass a car crash. As such "Untraceable" is surprisingly intelligent as it taps into that gruesome side of people's inquisitive nature and works it quite brilliantly especially when during critical scenes it displays a visitor counter showing how many people visited the sites to watch people die. Tied in to the exploration of the power and viral ability of the internet and "Untraceable" has a surprising amount of truth in the concepts it explores.
The trouble is that whilst all this build up work, the gruesomeness of the website, the disgusting and intriguing killings makes for quite fascinating viewing the final part of "Untraceable" fails to match it. It resorts to going back to stereotypical cop/agent scenes which you get in any number of thrillers and almost rushes to deliver an ending once all the pieces have been put into place. It makes it seem like it's running to a set formula which having been enticed by the cleverness of the first half is somewhat disappointing.
Whilst there are a few good performances and recognisable faces in "Untraceable" such as Colin Hanks as Griffin a cyber crime agent, it is very much a movie which revolves around Diane Lane as Jennifer March. As such it does feel a little one sided but Diane Lane does a pretty impressive job of not only being believable as a cyber crime agent with advanced internet skills but also as a single mum who ends up working nights. It's by no means Diane Lane's greatest performance but it works and she leads the movie in a more than adequate manner.
What this all means is that "Untraceable" is both an intelligent and thought provoking thriller. It manages to combine the viral capability of the internet into a storyline with touches of "Saw" about it. It does suffer during the second half when it resorts to stereotypical scenes but the first half is very clever and Diane Lane does a decent job of leading it.
Length: 101 mins
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Cast: Diane Lane, Billy Burke, Colin Hanks, Joseph Cross, Mary Beth Hurt, Peter Lewis, Tyrone Giordano, Perla Haney-Jardine