What made everybody stand up and pay attention with The Cell was director Tarsem Singhs visuals. The Cell was one of the most extraordinary directorial debuts of its or any other year. It is hard to find any other filmmaker or artist that Tarsem Singh might be compared to at a pinch, his work kind of suggests Goya gone MTV. When it comes to depicting the inner terrain, Singh has given his imagination free reign and gone completely wild characters wearing giant purple silk headdresses that cover three entire walls of a throne room; golden tendrils create tiny filigreed patterns around the edge of the frame as people talk. The sets, and in particular, the costumes are extraordinarily lavish. Inside the dream world, the colours are slightly off, landscapes are patterned in ways that are odd to the eye. Even in the real world scenes, Singh is constantly finding bizarre and unusual patterns FBI seen from above running across a children chalk hopscotch pattern, the gas of jet engines billowing into the camera. Singh creates a number of striking and disturbing images the image of Vincent DOnofrio strung up from hooks by rings pierced through his back; a display of zombified doll-like women attached to clockwork machinery that runs them through endless poses; the image (undoubtedly taken from the controversial artist Damien Hirst) of a horse being sectioned by glass plates and still left alive afterwards; Vince Vaughn being held down while his intestines are slowly being unwound on a rotisserie spit.
Former music video director Tarsem Singh is an extraordinary find, although at the same time everything else in The Cell takes second place to his visuals. If a more pedestrian director had made The Cell, one suspects that it would have barely been enough to interest anybody, let alone attain a theatrical release. The serial killer plot is ordinary and holds no surprises or twists. The script is frustratingly vague about the details of the process that allows people to enter the minds of others. Even the performers fail to make any distinction on the film. Jennifer Lopezs character vanishes beneath the visuals all we ever seem to know her by is her admittedly eye-catching costume changes, but not as a person. Similarly, Vincent DOnofrio gives a fey and silly performance but despite the fact that most of the film takes place inside his head and the story delves back into his childhood, the character is entirely opaque to us. He, for example, is never a threat we dont fear him. The landscapes and the wildness of Tarsem Singhs images produce a sense of dis-ease but the character of Stargher is only a handful of prancing poses.
Subsequent to The Cell, Tarsem Singh was attached as director to a number of projects including remakes of Westworld (1973) and Logans Run (1976). He instead went onto personally fund The Fall (2006), a visually extravagant tale being told to a child, followed by the Greek myth adventure Immortals (2011), the Snow White adaptation Mirror Mirror (2012), the bodyswap film Self/less (2015) and the reworked Wizard of Oz tv series Emerald City (2017).
The Cell 2 (2009) was a heavily disappointing sequel with Tessie Santiago as a new psychic tracking serial killer Frank Whaley.
(Winner Best Production Design and Nominee for Best Musical Score at this sites Best of 2000 Awards).