Making the Grades
It was inevitable. Those little plastic pieces of technology have already taken movie theaters by force, on both sides of the screen. (Any film set in the present day has a character yakking on a cell phone at some point, and audiences are constantly reminded to make sure those little noisemakers are turned off before the show starts.) So it was just a matter of time before a motion picture became so dependent on these wireless devices that even its very title would be centered on the Cellular invasion.
This action thriller sets up California beach bum Ryan (Chris Evans) as a reluctant and unlikely hero who answers a call on his cell. On the other end is Brentwood mother and high school teacher Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger). She has just been kidnapped and confined in an attic -- somewhere. After her abductor smashes the phone, she manages to make a single call by twisting together the broken wires and mimicking a dialing pulse (okay technological geeks like me are impressed with such ingenious solutions!).
At first, Ryan doesn't believe Jessica's story. But her pleading with him to not hang up finally convinces him to take a detour from cruising Santa Monica's Ocean Avenue and find a cop. Behind the desk at the police station he finds Sergeant Mooney (William H. Macy), a seasoned officer eager to retire and start a day spa with his wife. Just when Ryan is about to get assistance from the law-enforcement officer, a fight breaks out in the waiting room. With the signal breaking up and the added complication of threats toward Jessica's son, Ryan decides to take matters into his own hands.
Cellular doesn't lack onscreen talent, nor is stuntman turned director David Ellis a stranger to the action/thriller genre. Yet the script still roams "out of service" by relying on illogical situations (bad guys can drive through LA traffic at twice the speed as the good guys) and stupidity (crooks who leave keys in their car).
Parents may find other reasons to hang up on this movie as well. Profanities are frequent, including a single sexual expletive, and a sexually obsessed young man makes derogatory comments about a girl's breasts. However, the primary concern for family viewing will be the intensity of violent sequences, such as many gun shots being fired, depictions of bloody wounds from bullets and fist fights, Basinger's distressed character being roughed up by her captors, and a young child held prisoner in a shed.
A meager positive message about society's willingness to help strangers may be the sole benefit of allowing older teens to view this film. Otherwise, after its scant 94 minutes of airtime, Cellular's battery is exhausted.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Cellular.
At first Ryan is reluctant to help the person who has phoned him. Have you ever been in a position to assist someone, but have chosen not to because of your own time commitments, safety, or being embarrassed to get involved? How can we determine if it is safe to help someone? What are some reasons you shouldn’t get involved in another person’s crisis? How would you feel if you were the person in distress?
Kim Bassinger’s character, Jessica Martin, exclaims on the phone that their family is not rich, yet we see their large Brentwood home on various occasions during the movie. Would you consider them to be rich? Why do people’s definitions of “wealthy” differ?