Untraceable

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Untraceable Movie Poster Image
Violent torture thriller puts blame on the media.
  • R
  • 2008
  • 96 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 13 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The killer is angered by violence's exposure in the media and makes his viewers complicit in his crimes. Agents are frustrated, angry, and eventually triumphant.

Violence

Incessant violence (on computer screens and "live") committed by the serial killer, who tortures victims in front of a Web cam. These scenes are bloody, loud, and variously creepy: one involves the death of a kitten, while others show poisoning/bleeding, burning by sunlamps, bodily immersion in a vat of acid, and suspension over roaring lawnmower-style blades. The killer uses a Taser to zap his victims unconscious. SWAT teams burst into a couple of suspects' homes. Frequent tense moments as characters make their way through dark shadows. Plenty of guns wielded by agents -- and shot at suspect. Repeated viewing of a graphic scene in which a man shoots his head off. References to terrorism and using the Internet to publicize violence. Verbal references to a cop killed on the job, and several references to sex-related crimes (soliciting children online, for instance).

Sex

Some brief shots of porn Web sites on FBI computer monitors; images of "bondage" found in one suspect's home are shown briefly. A couple of non-explicit shower scenes suggest a woman's vulnerability (camera hovers outside shower or above her crouched form). Passing references to a male flirting with a "men's chorus soprano."

Language

Many uses of "f--k," in addition to frequent instances of other language ("s--t," "damn," "hell," "ass," etc.) In one instance, "f--k" is carved into a victim's chest.

Consumerism

Pepsi vending machine in cops' office.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this violent thriller features several long, disturbing scenes of torture -- bodies are bloodied, burned, dissolved in acid, and nearly decapitated by whirling blades. Other upsetting scenes feature Tasering, shooting, and a threat against a young girl, as well as plenty of images of dead bodies. All of this is framed within an argument against easy access to images of violence and abuse via the Internet, but that doesn't make it any less disturbing. Language includes repeated uses of "f--k" and other profanity.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bygtafanatic April 9, 2008

I laughed! Alot! Funny! Watch it or die!

This is the funniest crap i've seen in YEARS! Seriesly (did i spell that right?) this movie sucks so much that i only loved it because of the hilarity of i...
Adult Written bynsgh April 9, 2008

Entertainment!

Story kept my interest from beginning to end. I'm a junkie for the crime-solving story.... The villian's crimes were quite gruesome, and that was a... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byVivian_L August 4, 2009

Creepy and smart = great thriller movie~

This movie is a little heavy on torture violence, so it's not for young kids or even tweens; teens shouldn't really be bothered by it though. It'... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byNH258 November 18, 2011

Wasn't really gory at all.

After reading many reviews, i finally decided to see how bad it was for my self. Surprisingly it wasn't as horrible as i thought i was going to be - dont g... Continue reading

What's the story?

In UNTRACEABLE, a serial killer protests the easy availability of violent and exploitative media imagery by -- ironically -- setting up a Web site where people can watch victims suffering; the more visitors the site has, the worse the torture gets. Despite the fact that his work is tediously visible, he remains elusive: It's up to the Portland-based federal cybercrimes unit to locate this villain before he strikes again. At the center of the investigation is confident, righteous, intuitive agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane). Once the killer discovers that she's on his trail, he targets not only her and her family, but also her best friend/work partner, Griffin (Colin Hanks). Sadly, the cop who means to help her, Detective Box (Billy Burke), is astoundingly inept.

Is it any good?

Even if you take the film's moral lesson at face value, the overkill is discouraging, and not very instructive. With Marsh at the center of the action, there's a lot of focus on Lane's performance. She's certainly up to it -- particularly as Marsh's personal relationships are put at risk, and she becomes increasingly vulnerable in conversations with friends and family -- but the film depends on repetitive reaction shots as she and others gaze on grisly scenes, with viewers invited to gaze along with them. The movie essentially implicates its own audience in the commercialization and mass mediation of violence.

In fact, by the time the killer articulates his outrage against easy access to violent images, the rest of us have long since figured out that his strategy is faulty. He's trying to teach users that watching the abuse and murder of people they don't know is wrong and cruel -- but his own means are excessively cruel and don't teach anyone anything. Instead, the viewers he invites to his Web site -- where victims are set up in diabolical contraptions that increase their suffering as more users log on -- are just made culpable in the abuse.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the arguments for and against policing content on the Internet. How can you keep children safe from certain sites and users without unnecessarily censoring what adults can see? Should someone be in charge of what is and isn't OK to put online? If so, who? For tips on staying safe and smart online, try our guide.

Movie details

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