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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


A Little Background     Openers     


    Modus Operandi     The Scorecard:     

Emotive Connection      Audio     Operations    Extras     The Movie     Equipment




Untraceable [Blu-ray]

(GregoHoblit, 2008)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Screen Gems & Lakeshore Entertainment

Blu-ray: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 101 min

Chapters: 16

Size: 50 GB

Case: Locking Blu-ray case

Release date: May 13, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC MPEG-4



English or French Dolby True HD 5.1, Spanish and Portuguese DD 5.1



Feature: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese. Extras: English, Spanish, Portuguese, none



• Audio Commentary with Director Greg Hoblit, Producer Hawk Koch, and Production Designer Paul Eads.

• Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes:

• Tracking Untraceable (15 min.);

• Untraceable: The Personnel Files (15 Min.);

• The Blueprint of Murder (13 min.)

• The Anatomy of Murder (6 min.)

• Exclusive to Blu-ray: Bonus View [Profile 1.1] Picture-in-Picture: Beyond the Cyber Bureau.




The Film:

The Movie : 6
Billed as a sort of Silence of the Lambs for the Internet Age, Untraceable features Diane Lane as FBI Cyber Bureau agent Jennifer Marsh. She and her friend and colleague Griffen Dowd, played by Colin Hanks, search the Internet for possible crime of all sorts. She’s mostly interested in the nastier sort. But years of experience is hardly enough to prepare her for KillWithMe.com, a website where the more people watch, the faster the victim dies. It’s not that viewers want to see a quick death, but that they want to see it on live-TV.

The killer begins his career slowly destroying a cat, but quickly escalates to human victims, apparently at random. He is evidently quite a wizard in computer/Internet technology since he employs some pretty sophisticated technology to prevent the authorities from shutting him down. The puzzle as to the identity of the killer and the connection between the victims is cleverly worked out, but not before members of the special FBI unit are themselves captured to star on the website.

The filmmakers have a clear point of view about Internet crime and sites such as KillWithMe.com in particular: the viewers are not simply voyeurs (as bad as that might be), they are accomplices, like throwing gasoline on a fire. The killer himself has the position which, though taken to psychopathic extremes, has a point: that the government and the FBI are accomplices as well since they protect the rights of those who use television and the Internet to exploit violence. It's a difficult line at times, given the sort of liberal democracy we live in the U.S. All the same, there will be many who feel that this film indulges gruesome violence to such an extent it sadistically panders to its stated objection. Though this was not my feeling, I found the film had other problems in the final act.

There are probably two reasons why Untraceable would attract an audience: the first is the subject matter, the second is its star, Diane Lane, who played a Secret Service agent, some felt not-so-credibly, in Murder at 1600. Ms Lane is now 11 years older and more experienced, and women are seen as placing themselves in higher risk jobs than ever before. Whatever we might have thought about her in 1997, she is 105% believable today
in a similar role – that is, until the final act when, at the behest of the screenplay, she makes the fatal mistake of placing herself in harm’s way in cliché fashion – as if she’s suddenly forgotten all her training at the critical moment or never watched a thriller.


Image : 9 (9/9)
The score of 9 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value on a ten-point scale for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.

Untraceable might well have been photographed in black & white. It has a desaturated quality whose intent might be to give the viewer a little more distant form the prolonged on-screen gruesomeness of the murders. The image is high contrast has little detail in the shadows, but is generally quite sharp and in good focus throughout. Curiously, hair is not well defined and remains coarse, as if upscaled from lower resolution material, which is not the case.














Audio & Music : 9/8
The music by Christopher Young is very effective at creating suspense and lurking terror, though it’s a little overused, thus kind of defeating the purpose. The clear and dynamic sound mix did particularly well with atmospherics, especially rain.


Operations : 6
At first I found the menu operations vague and sluggish. As it happened, during the course of this review, I replaced my Sony S300 with a PS3 and from then on, everything moved along nicely, though the fonts remained darker than I would have liked when the menu is accessed during the play of the feature instead of prior to it. It is necessary for the disc to reboot for BonusView, so the better loading speed of the PS3 came in handy there as well.


Extras : 6
The Blu-ray Exclusive BonusView is essentially a continuous picture-in-picture commentary, running alongside the feature film. You could think of it as all of the other bonus features, including the main audio commentary rolled into one handy function. Fleshing out the four making-of featurettes: Tracking Untraceable (15 min.) is about how the script came into being. A doctor says he wanted to try his hand at something else. Untraceable: The Personnel Files (15 min.) deals with casting, and is more or less a deserved love song to Diane Lane. The Blueprint of Murder (13 min.) details the production design. The cleverly titled, Anatomy of Murder (6 min.) looks at makeup and special effects.



Bottom line:

Recommendation : 7
Untraceable is an effective thriller with a strong socio/political point of view. It plays cat and mouse with cliché, sometimes winning, sometimes losing that game. Diane Lane might be the main reason to see the film, but be warned: the effects are gruesome and prolonged – as I think they should be to make the intended political point.

Leonard Norwitz
May 8, 2008








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