Director Gregory Hoblit's (the man who previously helmed Fallen and Hart's War) latest thriller finds Diane Lane playing a Portland, Oregon based F.B.I. agent named Jennifer Marsh. When she's not busting computer savvy perverts and credit card fraudsters at the cyber crimes division of the bureau, she's trying to be a good mother to her young daughter, Annie (Perla Haney-Jardine of Kill Billand Spider-Man 3).
When Portland's finest turn over a website called killwithme.com, Jennifer and her partner, Agent Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks) logon to see a poor little kitten put to death. This is bad enough on its own but the next time they logon, they see a recently kidnapped man being tortured and finally killed live over streaming video. A local cop, Detective Eric Box (Billy Burke), joins the investigation and soon the three are caught in a race against time to find and stop the killer before be strikes again. It isn't going to be easy, however, as he's constantly changing servers and always seems to be one step ahead of them. The agents know that the killer is operating locally, but what they don't know is why he's killing and why he's choosing these very specific victims as his prey.
Untraceable is a well paced thriller with a couple of surprisingly nasty murder scenes and a solid lead performance from Diane Lane. She's well cast as a smart and capable heroine, and she's quite capable in the part. While the film borrows a bit from what's come before (Se7en, Saw, Argento's The Card Player and even Dee Snider's Strangeland) it at least does so well and proves to be a reasonably suspenseful picture with a couple of legitimately intense moments. The film is also fairly smart with its use of computer technology, keepings things fairly close to within the realm of possibility.
The Portland locations make for an appropriately gloomy backdrop for the film to take place in and the photography does a nice job of capturing not only the scenery of the Pacific Northwest region but also the colder side - the rain, the decay, the perpetually grey skies that are so common during the fall and winter months in the area. The film also contrasts the older suburban areas that surround the inner part of the city with the high-tech atmosphere and equipment that the killer uses to do his dirty deeds. The picture is slick looking, it's well shot and makes good use of sound.
Unfortunately, the familiarity of the storyline cannot be denied and because of this at times it doesn't quite fire on all cylinders. Still, Untraceable gets enough right that it's worth a watch, even if it should have maybe not borrowed so heavily from other films.
Untraceable's 1080p/AVC MPEG 4 encoded 2.40.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is good, but not without a few quirks. Ultra observant viewers may notice the odd speck here and there but for the most part the image is clean and stable from start to finish. Contrast varies from scene to scene, however, with some moments looking dead on and others looking a little bit washed out. Detail is strong in the foreground and the background but color reproduction is just a little on the flat side. This is a fairly dark film to begin with but the overwhelmingly dominant colors in the film's palette seem to make things look a little muddier than they probably should have. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement nor is there is much in the way of aliasing to complain about. Overall, the movie looks very good, just not perfect.
Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 48kHz/24-bit Surround Sound tracks are available in English and French with Dolby Digital 5.1 640kbps Surround Sound tracks provided in Portuguese and Spanish. Subtitles are provided for the feature in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish and for the extra features in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Surrounds are used very effectively to bring some of the more intense scenes to life but also to bring in a lot of detail for the more relaxed scenes. One minute you may hear the score pumping up behind you, the next moment you might notice some very subtle rain in the background. Dialogue stays up front for the most part and it's always audible and clear. Levels are well balanced and there are now problems at all with hiss or distortion. Bass response could have been a little bit stronger in a few scenes and gun shots don't pack as much punch as they could have but other than that the audio on this Blu-ray release is rock solid.
Screen Gems presents all of the special features on this Blu-ray disc in standard definition. First up is the audio commentary from director Gregory Hoblit who is joined by producer Hawk Koch and production designer Paul Eads. The focus of this talk is the difficulties that the team had shooting the picture, most of which related to the budget, or lack thereof. They also talk about shooting on location in Portland, about casting the film and about their admiration for Lane's performance, and they touch on the details of some of the grisly murder set pieces used in the film. Eads shares some insight into the specific look of the film and why certain things were meant to look they way they appear in the picture while Hoblit and Koch provide more general details about the film. This is a reasonably interesting commentary but it doesn't really go into enough fine detail to make it an essential listen.
Up next is the first of four featurettes, Tracking Untraceable, which is a discussion about the origin of the project featuring input from Hoblit, Koch, a couple of the producers, and the writing team of Tom Rosenberg and Gary Lucchesi. The second featurette, The Personnel Files explores the casting of the film and features input from Diane Lane and Colin Hanks while The Blueprint Of Murder takes a look at the production design and sets used in the film. The last featurette, The Anatomy Of Murder is a very brief and superficial look at the murder scenes in the film. Overall, these shed some light on the production but fail to go into much detail and for the most part they come off as pretty lightweight filler.
Exclusive to the Blu-ray release of Untraceable (the commentary and featurettes are also on the SD release) is Beyond The Cyber-Bureau, a nifty picture-in-picture video commentary that uses the participants from the four featurettes to divulge some scene specific trivia and information as it relates to what's happening on screen. This works better than the commentary does as it delves a little bit deeper under the surface and as such, it's just more informative.
Aside from that, we get trailers for a few unrelated Blu-ray releases, a Blu-ray promo spot, menus, and chapter selection.
Untraceable is far from a modern classic but it's got enough suspense and a few cool ideas to make it worth a look for thriller/crime/horror movie fans. The transfer is solid, the audio is quite good, and the extras are sufficient making this a reasonably entertaining disc that's worth going through once. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.