The YouTube Phenomenon has become a sensation virtually overnight, revolutionizing the way people interact, product marketing, and even how news is reported. Featured on the cover of Time magazine in 2006, they described it as the “video subconscious of America.”
A celebrity does something stupid and five minutes later its on the Internet, fifteen minutes later people are laughing about it on a blog site, and over thirty minutes later CNN is reporting it as news. Sure, the traditional news outlets are behind, but that’s not the point.
Technology has become an integral part of society, shaping the way we live and interact, and YouTube (among others) are at the forefront. It was only a matter of time before someone made a movie about these movies.
Untraceable taps into this new generation perfectly, but uses it as a backdrop for an ordinary thriller. The plot might be conventional, but what it says about us as a whole is clear. If anyone can become a star with a webcam, then eventually this viral voyeurism will expose a sadistic underbelly in our society. “It’s a jungle in there,” one character admits.
Diane Lane plays a tech detective in the Cyber Crime unit of the FBI. With a little help from the Patriot Act, she scours the net and shuts down offenders. Until she stumbles on KillWithMe.com, a site that starts with the torture of a kitten and quickly escalates to complex contraptions torturing residents of the conveniently coincidental city of Portland. The site is simple: the more hits it gets, the more torture the victim receives, until he’s dead. The viewers become unsuspecting accomplices just through morbid curiosity.
Here’s the problem with this idea. It’s hypocritical. The more people that watch this movie, the more it legitimizes not only average movies, but this sub-genre of “torture porn” that became popular with the Saw franchise, but just won’t die itself. It’s just like the plot of the movie, only this time we’ve seen this video before. And you can choose to spend your time and money elsewhere.
Lane is a convincing computer expert who trades jargon with her partner in Cyber Crime, a likeable Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks). But anyone who has used a computer before knows the capabilities shown here are Hollywood magic and the “tech talk” dialogue is mostly gibberish.
But the technical lingo isn’t what makes this movie unrealistic. There are significant plot holes that stem mostly from incompetent police work. Any agent with that much knowledge of computer should have some level of common sense.
Here are a few examples, just to name a few. Someone who works for the computer department of the FBI doesn’t have a secure setup at home? The FBI wouldn’t be constantly monitoring what was on the site every single second? Once the serial killer starts targeting FBI agents, they aren’t all immediately on alert? Is it really that untraceable?
The movie does include elements of suspense scattered here and there, but it squanders an opportunity to be a quality mystery like say a Se7en. We, the contemptible viewing audience, know details well before the FBI squad of seasoned detectives, instead of revealing pieces of the puzzle carefully.
Those details are disappointing. A shrimpy teenager bent on revenge for shaky reasons, who has an exceptional number of resources and abilities that outsmart the FBI team for far too long.