The Cell appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Given the movie’s age and budget, I was surprised at how bland the visuals looked.
Fine detail was an issue; parts of the movie offered decent sharpness, but they never became especially well-defined or concise. Sharpness ranged from pretty good to rather soft. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also weren’t a concern.
In terms of palette, the movie showed a somewhat sandy-orange sensibility. These hues lacked much range and seemed somewhat thick. Blacks were about the same. Those tones appeared decent to good, but they didn’t present great depth.
Shadows were usually acceptable but also not especially smooth or concise. Maybe the Blu-ray accurately reproduced the original film, but that seems hard to imagine, as The Cell looked awfully iffy for a fairly recent film from a big studio.
At least the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack proved to be more satisfying. With all the trippy material on display, the mix opened up to give us a lot of active, involving audio. More traditional “cop movie” elements like helicopters and cars moved around the room well, but the dream scenes fared the best. Those managed to use all five speakers in a dynamic way to place us in the action.
Audio quality also satisfied. Speech was distinctive and concise, while music appeared full and rich. Effects came across as accurate and dynamic, without distortion or other concerns. This became a strong soundtrack.
As we shift to the set’s extras, we open with two separate audio commentaries. In the first, we hear from director Tarsem Singh. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at sets, locations and design choices, music and audio, editing, cast and performances, story/character areas and related topics.
Given the dark, moody nature of his films, I figured Singh would offer a subdued, sluggish commentary. To my pleasant surprise, Singh displays a witty, bubbly personality and he digs into his movie with relish. He gives us a ton of good insights about his work and doesn’t hesitate to relate criticisms/disappointments. Singh makes this a very good chat.
For the second commentary, we find director of photography Paul Laufer, production designer Tom Foden, makeup supervisor Michele Burke, costume designer April Napier, visual effects supervisor Kevin Haug and composer Howard Shore. All were recorded separately for this edited compilation. As expected, we learn about sets/locations and production design, music, photography, costumes and make-up, effects and working with Singh.
Though it sags at times, this usually becomes a pretty solid piece. We get a good view of the technical areas and learn a fair amount about the production, though the track lacks balance. For instance, we hear a ton from Laufer and barely anything from Shore.
Still, the track holds together and gives us useful info about the film. In particular, Haug offers cool insights, such as when he discusses directors who are “dreamers” and those who are “shoppers”.
A featurette called Style As Substance: Reflections on Tarsem runs 11 minutes, 51 seconds and offers notes from Singh, Laufer, Haug, Burke, Napier, digital animator Richard “Dr.” Baily, and actors Jennifer Lopez, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Vince Vaughn. Some of this degenerates into general praise for Singh, but the inclusion of quality footage from the shoot makes it watchable.
Eight Deleted Scenes come next. We see “Trapped in the Cell” (1:04), “Despair in the Cell” (0:43), “Extended Raid” (3:30), “Early Exit” (1:55), “Novak and Ramsey” (1:32). “Stargher’s Room” (3:26), “Extended Confrontation with Carl” (4:18) and “Extended Carl with Victim” (3:36). These tend to be fairly minor additions, and I don’t think any of them add to the experience in a notable manner.
We can watch the scenes with or without commentary from Singh. He tells us a little about the sequences as well as why he cut them. Singh delivers some useful notes.
In addition to two trailers, the disc provides six Special Effects Multi-Angle Vignettes. These cover “The Hoist” (9:43), “First Entry” (17:00), “Second Entry” (18:47), “Novak’s Entry” (11:25), “Catherine’s World” (9:56) and “Edward’s World” (3:54). Those running times are deceptive, as they include various snippets repeatedly.
This means we first see interview footage for Haug, Burke and Baily on the left side of the screen while behind the scenes shots appear in the top right and storyboards show up in the bottom right. After that segment ends, we view the behind the stage material fullscreen and then the storyboards fullscreen; the comments from Haug, Burke and Baily still accompany these segments.
The visual quality of the footage isn’t very good, but the material itself boasts useful information. Haug heavily dominates, and as was the case during the commentary, he proves to be engaging and clear. The “Vignettes” become a good addition to the set.
Despite creative visuals, The Cell seems too derivative to take flight. The movie combines elements from superior films and never quite gains a personality of its own. The Blu-ray provides mediocre visuals with good audio and an informative set of supplements. I like this kind of movie but The Cell leaves me cold.