I hate to use other movies as examples when trying to describe another, but there’s just no escaping it in this case. Untraceable is a mash-up of the horrendous FeardotCom and the much more gruesome Saw.
Diane Lane plays Jennifer Marsh, a Special Agent who, by night, works for the FBI’s cyber crime unit and by day is a widowed single-parent taking care of her young daughter with the help of her mother. Marsh and her partner, Griffin (Colin Hanks), spend their time perusing the interwebs for petty criminals, pedophiles, and the like. Marsh soon stumbles upon Killwithme.com, a bizarre alternate to YouTube in which the host feeds its viewers a live feed of his subjects. With each new viewer, the faster the subject dies (sort of a twist on FeardotCom). The choosing of the subjects is first seen as random selection but it turns out that there is more to the story. Unfortunately, when the puzzle pieces are put together and the killer’s motives are realized, the movie turns in to a cliché.
The killer’s point is that we are human and can’t turn away from a car wreck or from seeing someone else suffer. While I commend the writers for not shoving this message down our throats like the first Saw, the little one liners are so obvious. In one scene Griffin laughs at the fact that the killer has blocked all foreign IP’s from viewing the site. “How patriotic,” he says. Later, Marsh is disgusted with how our society is turning in to one big voyeur citing the fact that we like to watch things like porn and journalists get their heads cut off. I do agree to some extent here. I mean, hello “2 girls 1 cup” and “BME Pain Olympics” (if you’ve seen what I’m talking about then there’s something wrong with you). The intentions are good, but the overall story just comes off as stereotypical and mostly hypocritical with the relentless violence that’s been done so many times before. I think the writers could’ve maybe done more with the cyber crimes division of the FBI, without delving in to To Catch a Predator territory. Filmmakers should try something new for once and not continue to rehash worn ideas and think that is what we want to see.
Aside from the storyline, Diane Lane saves this movie for me. I believe Lane can do no wrong, with the exception of Must Love Dogs. She portrays, quite nicely, the juggling act her character has to go through and the emotional ups and downs as well. I asked a friend a while ago why big action movies or suspense type movies like this never try to be realistic when people die. Usually it's "oh my god, so-and-so is dead..." then the character is on to the next thing. Ok, so maybe the manner in which these people die isn’t entirely believable but Lane’s performance is. She grieves so believably under the circumstances.
Basically, this is a forgettable movie with Lane playing a more interesting version of Dateline's Chris Hansen.
Surprisingly there’s a decent amount of extra stuff on the DVD. For a movie such as this I usually expect a behind-the-scenes, maybe commentary, and the trailer. There are 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes: a typical making-of, cast and crew profiles, make-up special effects, and traditional behind-the-scenes. The writers say their idea for the movie came from society, as of late, being so driven by the internet and what it offers. What they don't admit to is partially ripping off Saw.
As always, one of the more interesting featurettes is the make-up special effects – detailing how those gruesome bodies were made. What is interesting about the cast and crew segment is that Diane Lane and costar Billy Burke actually prepared for their roles by spending time with real cyber crime FBI agents. While I'm sure the movie looked good on paper, I feel bad for both actors actually preparing extensively for such a movie. Aside from the featurettes there's a hefty selection of previews for movies on DVD or coming to DVD.
Again, I'm still baffled as to why such efforts were put in to this DVD, but the featurettes certainly help with this viewing experience. It's a case of giving you more than you want, but it helps.