April 29, 2010
Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto
Directed by: Gregory Hoblit
Written by: (Screenplay) Robert Fyvolent, Mark Brinker, & Allison Burnett / (Story) Robert Fyvolent & Mark Brinker
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Low
Key Cast Members:
Overview: One of the key themes in cyberpunk is how technology affects humanity, whether for better or for worse. Untraceable opted to show the for worse part with a tech-savvy psycho who creates the website KillWithMe.com (it works for now, but don’t expect much there). The website streams live video of people being tortured and killed by various means, with the victim dying faster as more people watch. FBI cybercrime agent Jennifer Marsh is the one who needs to stop the killer site before the killings get too gruesome.
This is one movie that’s not for cyberpunk fans, unless they are also Law & Order/CSI/NCIS fans as well. Despite the cyber message the movie tries to deliver, the lack of other cyberpunk themes makes this one movie that cyberpunk fans may want to steer clear of.
The Story: FBI agent Jennifer Marsh (Lane) works as part of the cybercrimes division, mostly at night because she’s a widow with a daughter. She has enough tech skills to track down and solve common ID fraud cases, maybe some other cybercrimes that the FBI deals with. She gets a tip for the site killwithme.com, and when she logs in she sees a dead kitten on a live video stream. Her team tries to shut the site down, but the person behind the site has advanced tech skills that makes his site virtually untraceable. Before long, the site shows a man being pumped with anticoagulants which causes him to bleed to death. The more people who visit the site, the more anticoagulant is pumped into him to make him bleed more. Marsh and company now need to find who is behind the site, hopefully before more people die on it. The problem she has is the publicity and schadenfreude the site generates, making it increasingly popular.
Schaden-whatthefuck? Schadenfreude - (German, noun) Enjoyment derived from the suffering or misfortune of others. You must have experienced schadenfreude many times in your life, often starting at a very young age; Taking a toy away from another toddler and making him/her cry, watching a baddie get his ass kicked by the hero, LOLs while watching The Three Stooges slap each other around. These are but some small examples of schadenfreude that we have experienced. In the Internet age, that concept has become wide spread and even viral as noticed on YouTube. But then, America’s Funniest Home Videos has been doing it since 1989.
Unfortunately, schadenfreude also takes on darker tones as Untraceable shows. The Internet can take a personal tragedy and make it viral not only for the people who videoed the event, but for whatever site/station that also broadcasts it. This is the driving motivation behind killwithme.com’s mastermind, exposing humanity’s dark schadenfreude while taking personal revenge on those who benefited from his father’s suicide.
You and the people you work with you let people say and do almost anything they want. It doesn’t matter who it hurts.
A One-Star Wonder? The main problem, other than being geared for the police-procedure crime-solver types, is the lack of cyberpunk themes. The negative impact of technology is obviously there, along with the undertones of ubiquitous Internet access shown with all the handhelds and cellphones shown being used. The rest, not so much. And those who prefer the crime-solving may feel like they’ve solved this crime before the agents do, and not because we get to see the perpetrator select his victims.
Conclusion: While the message about our dark nature on the Internet is strong, the lack of cyberpunk themes will be a turn off of most. Recommended ONLY for Law & Order/CSI/NCIS fans, and even then with some reservations.