Since I was a teenager I've been a fan of Stephen King's novels. Although I've gone through periods in which I've skipped reading his output I always eventually come back when a title sufficiently piques my interest. I remember several years ago when his book Cell was about to be released Entertainment Weekly ran the first chapter so I checked it out to see if it was time to dip back into the world of King. Finding the excerpt to be sub-par and uninteresting I never bothered to read that particular novel and now I've seen the film adaptation I must say I think I made the right choice.
The first thing I noticed was that this film was completed in 2014 but not released until 2016. That means that someone didn't have any faith in it. Also, it was dumped to home video with no theatrical play dates which means that someone didn't have any faith in it. Now that I've seen it I have no faith in it either, and that is sad.
Also sad is that CELL reunites the two leads from a better King adaptation 1408 (2007) in what was clearly an attempt to attract horror fan's attention. Good try, I guess but when the film ends up this bad casting is not the problem. Actors weren't going to save this thing.
There are multiple problems actually and the biggest is that the film is completely uninvolving. I can't figure out why or even how but I never gave a damn about what was happening onscreen. A sudden worldwide wave of intense violence breaks out causing murders, assaults and carnage and somehow it was boring. That is an amazing accomplishment! Perhaps an award of some sort is in order.
The murderous madness seems to be caused by a sound coming from cell phones so only those lucky enough to not be in direct contact with their phones when things went bad are still human. That is the setup for a potentially interesting story but that is not what we get. The film's main character sets out to get home to find his wife and son and he has a couple of other lucky souls along for the trip. They spend the film walking across the wintery landscape toward their goal encountering occasional groups of still sane people but none of these meetings are all that interesting. A bit of nocturnal soccer field arson is momentarily exciting but only in a mild way.
The biggest mistake CELL makes though is in it's attempt to explain the cause of the sound that is taking over and destroying the human race. It somehow seems connected to the film's main character but not really. The telepathic way in which the controlled people are directed might be connected to a comic book character created by Cusack, or not. All of this might add up to something, but it doesn't. Damn this mess was a waste of time!
In the final analysis this is a poorly executed pseudo zombie film that barely has a pulse. It's dull and only fitfully interesting. When, in the final twenty minutes, the story lurches toward some kind of resolution I though that at least the ending might be interesting but I was wrong. We get a standard 'blow everything up' ending and then - to make things even more idiotic - the film throws in two separate extra endings! One of these is happy while the other one is depressing and the fact that the film presents all three of these endings is the final slap in the face. I swear, it's as if they shot all of these thinking they'd decide which closing scene to use in the editing process and then couldn't make up their minds, so they put in all of them. It is idiotic on a level I hope to never see again. And from what I've gleaned from the web the book's ending was different but just as stupid and unsatisfying. Ugh!
Walk away from this one folks. It's a turd.