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Dialing up thrills

Once in a while, a film comes along that takes some aspect of life that everyone takes for granted and turns it into something deadly. Today, nothing is more common than the cell phone. Many films have associated danger with technology, so it was just a matter of time before some film studio released a movie centered on a cellular phone.

Surprisingly, though, unlike many race-against-time thrillers, Cellular is pretty good.

Kim Basinger, still receiving rave reviews for her performance in The Door in the Floor, plays Jessica Martin. Jessica, a high school biology teacher, has just been kidnapped for unknown reasons by a team of mysterious criminals led by Jason Statham (The Italian Job). Luckily, she is able to use the remnants of a smashed telephone to call for help. Unfortunately for Ryan (Chris Evans), his cell phone is the one Jessica reaches. The bulk of the film follows Ryan as, after a futile effort to obtain police help, he attempts to save Jessica’s family from getting kidnapped as well. The talented William H. Macy, an asset to every film he stars in, portrays the curious cop who believes Ryan’s story.

The film’s plot grows increasingly complicated as Ryan discovers the motive behind Jessica’s abduction. The script, by first-time screenwriter Chris Morgan, remains focused on the randomness of this situation as well as the personal terror afflicting Jessica and her family. Plot twists continue to pile up as Ryan draws closer to saving Jessica, yet, along with a myriad of thrills, Cellular delivers plenty of laughs to counter the film’s truly shocking sequences. A series of scenes featuring an irate lawyer whose car Ryan must steal are particularly humorous.

Academy Award winner Basinger delivers another first-rate performance. As Jessica, she portrays both panic and cunning. Though she has found her way into an undeserved crisis, she remains focused on saving herself and her family. As an unarmed woman faced with a difficult situation, Basinger effectively conveys Jessica’s desperation and emotional strain.

However, the film’s real star is Evans. His character is an irresponsible young man whose main focus in life is getting back with his estranged girlfriend (Jessica Biel). Though Evans’ performance could have easily been one-note, he infuses the film with a believability that grounds the film in reality and, in effect, amplifies its tension. Evans is able to convey Ryan’s inner goodness as he realizes just how little his own trivial problems matter compared to someone else’s genuine danger. Cellular also marks an evolution in the young actor’s career, as he strives to shed the teen-movie status he has been saddled with since his role in Not Another Teen Movie. In fact, Evans may be poised for superstardom after he plays The Human Torch in next summer’s Fantastic Four, based on the popular Marvel comic book.

In the same way Phone Booth attributed telephone booths with lethal danger, Cellular applies the same themes of random danger to cell phones. The script points out many valid points about cellular phones. It indicates that anyone’s phone could have rung instead of Ryan’s, even a member of the audience’s. There is something for everyone to relate to in this film.

Cellular is a film for anyone who has ever answered their phone and claimed it was a wrong number.