Cellphones are a wonderful tool. They keep us connected to the world by talking to our friends and family, getting updates on all our apps and, for a lot of people, are essential for selfies. But sometimes a phone call can change your life. Cellular is a wonderful thriller that takes that last sentence seriously. So, why is this lesser known thriller such a fun ride? How does a cellphone become the centerpiece of a movie? And why is this my favorite Chris Evans movie?
Imagine that you’re going about your day at work, or perhaps your day off and you receive a phone call from a number you don’t recognize. Do you answer it? For most people, probably not, but I would be mildly curious. Cellular tells the story of a man who receives such a phone call from a woman who claims to have been kidnapped. While he thinks it a joke, he hears something on the other end of the line that changes his thinking. Armed with only his cellphone, Ryan (Chris Evans) has to figure out where she is and save her before his signal or battery dies!
It’s a clever premise, with Fast and Furious screenwriter Chris Morgan and the late Larry Cohen (who wrote a somewhat similar idea two years early with Phonebooth) crafting a unique idea that adds up to a fun and exciting thriller. Under the direction of the late David R. Ellis, best known for his work on the Final Destination franchise, Cellular delivers an intense thriller that doesn’t need to be ultra-violent or have a hard R-rating to be engaging.
Kim Basinger plays Jessica Martin, a school-teacher who has been kidnapped by armed men and taken to an undisclosed location. She has no idea why this is happening to her but once she’s locked in the attic of the house, Ethan (Jason Statham) smashes a phone on the wall which terrifies her. While Jessica is left alone, she twists wires on the broken phone to see if a connection can be made. After hours of effort, a call is placed and is connected with Ryan, a total stranger.
After pleading with the young man for help, a series of events unfolds that leaves Ryan trying to catch his breath, and we the audience are loving every minute of it. It’s one thing if you know the person who’s in danger, but Ryan has never met this person, even thinking the call was a joke at the star. So, this begs the question…how far would you go to save someone you don’t even know?
One of the great things about this movie is the use of cellphones. Now, this was before the existence of iPhones and Androids, as those weren’t released until 2007 and 2008 respectively. It’s really neat to see people on their phones in this movie because they aren’t texting or looking at apps. They are actually talking to someone. We don’t even see anyone in the movie take pictures. Even the movie’s title comes into the mix when Ryan runs into a Cellular store to buy a phone charger or he’ll lose the call; it’s a clever way to incorporate the title into the movie. I can remember the days when we didn’t have the smartphones of today. It was a simpler time when the cellphone was just one thing…a phone.
Now, Chris Evans is an actor that I’ve followed over the years. I think he’s a really good actor and even though Evans is best remembered for playing Captain America in the MCU and even Johnny Storm/The Human Torch in the forgettable Fantastic Four movies, Cellular is, in my opinion, his strongest performance. He plays an ordinary guy who’s thrusted into a serious situation that no one could’ve expected. He brings a lot of energy, laughs and fun to his role.
Personally, I’m tired of oversaturated superhero movies and miss these simple plotted stories like Cellular. They can be fun, exciting and a much-needed break from modern Hollywood’s onslaught of remakes, superhero films and Disney Live Action remakes, but that’s just my opinion. Cellular may be overlooked by many, but it’s quite a good movie to watch. Statham and Evans even have a pretty good fight and it was be neat to see them on the screen together again! Nevertheless, Cellular is a fun movie and one to look back on considering that these were the early days of seeing Chris Evans. I forgot to mention that this entire movie takes place in one day too!
As a director, David R. Ellis certainly didn’t make the best of movies but that’s ok because at least we got a smart and entertaining one with Cellular. The cast is great, including William H. Macy as the “cop looking forward to retirement” who gives an equally solid performance. And of course there’s the hip-hop version of Sinnerman, originally sung by Nina Simone, which plays over the ending credits.
Cellular is a lot of fun especially when watching it today, fifteen years later. Gosh, look at how small those phones were back in the day!? Those were the days that I’ll always remember. Just remember who you’re calling next time you’re on the phone!