Tod Williams’ Cell may well come under the umbrella of the zombie sub-genre, but there’s a pertinency attached to the study of our dependency on technology, as a virus spreads throughout mankind, via our smartphones. Though taking a somewhat barbed look into our relationship with these devices, the film grows far too irreverent in the latter stages that we lose sight of any message it is vying to preach, undermining its very own point.
John Cusack plays Clay Riddell, who is striving to find a power socket to allow him to charge his phone and speak to his son. As he hurries around the airport, everybody using their mobile receive a signal that sends them all into shock, as people turn into savages, killing one another or killing themselves. Given he wasn’t on the phone at the time, Clay survives and finds a fellow group of people also unharmed, vying to find a means of escape underground. While the collective are too afraid to brave the outside world at the risk of being contaminated themselves, Clay and his new ally Tom (Samuel L. Jackson) give it a shot, and just about find their way to safety. Not sure where to turn next, Clay is determined to discover if his son, and wife are safe – and so the pair set off on a road trip to New England to find out.
The zombie movie has been explored countless times of late, in blockbuster form in the shape of World War Z, to comedic endeavours such as Shaun of the Dead. But Cell represents a different take on the formula, at least initially. For Williams’ production shakes off any sense of innovation and abides frustratingly by convention, with a generic second half. It’s especially disappointing this be the case given the film is not based on a Stephen King novel, but has a screenplay penned by the venerable author too. We don’t spend enough time getting to know Clay before the supernaturalism kicks in, introduced far too early into proceedings, and disallowing the chance for the viewer to become emotionally attached and invested in the protagonist, which is required for the latter stages when he’s fighting for his life.
Nonetheless, Cusack makes the most of the mediocre screenplay with an accomplished turn – but the real star of the show is Jackson. Every line sounds cool; each delivery so indelible. The only problem is, it’s hard to tell whether the dialogue is actually rather well-crafted for his role, or if the manner of his dulcet tones just make it seem that way. Regrettably, in this instance, it’s more likely to be the latter.