Do you slow down when passing a car crash? Are you one of those people who can’t help but watch replays of horrible accidents on TV and/or online? With Untraceable, the moral question posed is along those same lines. If you knew about a website with live video of a stranger being tortured and killed, would you click on the link and check out what’s going on?
Lane stars as Special Agent Jennifer Marsh, an integral part of the FBI’s newly formed cybercrimes unit located in Portland, Oregon. Marsh and her partner Griffin Dowd (Hanks) spend their nights on duty surfing the internet seeking out criminal behavior. Dealers of kiddy porn, sexual predators, and other sickos are their targets as the team attempts to keep the internet safe.
An anonymous tip leads the investigators to killwithme.com. Visiting the site, Lane and Dowd see a kitten being lured into a trap and left to die in front of a video camera streaming the feed in real time on the net. It’s extremely disturbing, but Lane’s told by her boss to focus on crimes against humans. However, the killing of the poor kitten was just a way to entice viewers to the site. From that jumping off point, the creep who created the website progresses to torturing and killing a man for millions to see. In fact, he’s counting on millions of sets of eyes watching the horrific event unfold. The more people visit his site, the faster the victim dies.
Diane Lane does a fine job of playing a tough-as-nails FBI computer cybercrime whiz who finds it hard to balance life as a single mother with her job. Each night she surfs her way through the worst the web has to offer. Each day, she tries to leave those images behind and concentrate on just being a mom. Lane delivers a solid performance, seemingly equally at ease slinging around all the technical jargon and hosting a birthday party for her young daughter at a roller rink. Lane also shows she can convincingly handle the action parts. When push comes to shove and she’s forced into getting physical, Lane turns into a real tigress.
Billy Burke takes on the romantic interest sort of role as the handsome cop who not only assists with the investigation but offers Lane some off-duty support as needed. Officer Box is a character we’ve seen over and over again, but Burke does a good job of fleshing out a role that’s written as only one-dimensional.
The Bottom Line
Cat lovers and those who found Saw or Hostel too disturbing to watch may want to stay away from Untraceable. Or, in lieu of avoiding the film altogether, be prepared to hide your eyes during any scene that takes place in a basement. If the interior is dark and a character is walking downstairs, or a video camera is shown with its red light on, that might be a good time for the squeamish to go for soda or popcorn.
Unfortunately, the story stumbles and the edge-of-your-seat thriller transforms into just another clichéd cop drama during its last 30-40 minutes. Characters act stupidly and a jarring line of dialogue from the beginning of the film, one you just knew would have to come back into play, sure enough does wind up playing an important part late in the film. Untraceable gets thrown off its rails and can’t recover the momentum it had edging into the final act. It’s frustrating to watch what was a completely absorbing thriller degenerate into something so predictable. Not even Lane's solid performance can salvage a disappointing finale.
Untraceable was directed by Gregory Hoblit is rated R for some prolonged sequences of strong gruesome violence and language.
Theatrical Release Date: January 25, 2008