ICYMI: Untraceable (2008)
Last week I took time to fawn over the talent and beauty of Madeleine Stowe. This week I would like to highlight another actress whose immense talent may only be outshined by her timeless beauty: Diane Lane. Hard to believe, but Ms. Lane has been honing her craft on-screen for forty years. She got her start alongside Sir Laurence Olivier in George Roy Hill’s A Little Romance. She was a part of the “teen scene” in classics like The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, grew up before our eyes in The Big Town and Vital Signs and blossomed into a fully-formed adult performer in A Walk on the Moon and her Oscar-nominated turn in Unfaithful. More recently she joined the new DC film universe as Superman’s human matriarch Martha Kent in Man of Steel and Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, so her career shows no signs of slowing down.
2008’s Untraceable may seem like another mindless entry into the “torture porn” cinema that is the Saw and Hostel movies, but thankfully Diane Lane’s performance makes it much more than that. Lane stars as FBI agent Jennifer Marsh, working in the Cyber Crimes division on the trail of a serial killer. This “new age” killer is using the internet as their weapon. That is, they are finding their victims, connecting them to elaborate “Saw-like” devices and then allowing the internet traffic to decide their fate. The more people that click to follow, the quicker the victims meet their grisly demises. Although already ten years old, Untraceable seems more timely now in the current state of social media and the way that everyone can be a purveyor, voyeur and accomplice in the never-ending maelstrom of vice and tragedy.
The film also stars Colin Hanks as Lane’s partner and Billy Burke as a local detective that joins the case. Colin Hanks is very watchable as always, providing both technical jargon and comic relief and Billy Burke is surprisingly effective as the cop that takes a shine to Lane without a full-blown romantic subplot. The main reason the films works, and is much more than simple exploitation, is that film takes the time to develop these characters that we actually care about. Director Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear, Fallen, Frequency) is a veteran to good thrillers and finds a way to both take time to ingratiate us to these characters but also keeps thing moving at a brisk pace. Additionally, Hoblit shows considerable restraint by not showing too much gore, and letting the audience fill in the blanks (which is always scarier).
But in the end, it’s all about Diane Lane. What could have been a stock role of a single mother trying to survive in the male-dominated world of law enforcement is engaging and credible thanks to her performance. Lane conveys strength, intelligence, and empathy in just about every scene. She always finds the right tone for each scene and never seems to be reaching or overplaying her role. And when it is she that is dangling in the killer’s last trap, you know that she is more than capable of surviving all by herself.