Untraceable is a new age thriller rooted in suspense and technology; unfortunately, it unmasks the killer too soon and deconstructs the mystery predictably.
Special Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) works with her partner Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks) within the FBI’s cyber-crime unit in Portland, Oregon. The branch’s task is to troll the Internet and crack down on credit card fraud and sexual predators. All is business as usual until they receive a tip pointing to a new website: killwithme.com. The ‘Net savvy executioner begins with the torture of a kitten to test the viability of his site before moving to human subjects. Having established the website’s popularity among surfers, the next murder is accomplished with their assistance: the more hits the site gets, the faster the victim dies. Moreover, with an acute expertise, the website has been made utterly untraceable.
As the killer continues to broadcast the horrific deaths of his captives, he also taunts the agents with clues implying a local suspect. When he makes the investigation personal, Marsh is forced to muster all her talent and know-how to stop him before he can kill again.
Obviously the film is timely, with the FBI's cyber-crimes unit having been established less than 10 years ago and the Internet playing such a large role in our professional and recreational lives. Furthermore, websites featuring graphic images of suicide, maiming and other real-life gore have only multiplied and gained popularity since their creation.
On the other hand, this film is really just another example of torture porn; the victims expire slowly and graphically for the viewing pleasure of the audience – both within and outside of the narrative. This phenomenon of realistic torture on screen exploded with the success of the Saw and Hostel films and has been reproduced numerous times since. Thus, is this film exploring the subject and bringing new light to the trend and society’s value of life or just spreading the disease?
The film establishes a good level of intensity at the start of the investigation as the agents team with Portland Detective Eric Box (Billy Burke) to uncover the killer’s identity. At the start, the audience follows the clues along with them, building suspense. In addition, the exponential increase of the number of people logging on to the site is astonishing and appalling. However, as the story continues, the mystery begins to unravel for audiences even though the authorities are still clueless; then, suddenly, an unfinished phrase leads all the pieces to fall into place.
On a positive note, the casting was spot on. Lane portrays the hard-working single mom trying to balance work and home to a T. Hanks perfectly represents the geeky but loveable “Griff” and Burke plays the sexy, brooding detective typically well.
If you are one of the millions who would log on to killwithme.com, you will appreciate the creativity of the tortures displayed on screen. In addition, the top two-thirds of the film are intriguing. But the predictability of the latter third tends to subtract from it’s value as a suspense thriller.