Untraceable: The New Internet Thriller–Preview 2008

The world of virtual crime becomes real in the suspense thriller “Untraceable,” starring Diane Lane and Colin Hanks, and stylishly directed by Gregory Hoblit, who had previously helmed “Fracture” and “Frequency.”

The au-courant script, penned by Robert Fyvolent, Mark R. Brinker, and Allison Burnett, from a story by Fyvolent and Brinker, reflects our new reality, as it is shaped and conditioned by the Interent.

There is within the FBI a division devoted to investigating and prosecuting criminals on the Internet. Special Agent Jennifer Marsh, played by Oscar-nominee Diane Lane, is a young widow and pro, who thinks she has seen every type of computer-driven crimeuntil she encounters a new, scary one. An ultra-savvy Internet predator is alarmingly displaying his graphic murder on his own website, which is untraceable.

The fate of each of his tormented captives is really left in the hands of the public, the friendly users. The more hits his dangerous, lethal site gets, the faster his victims die.

What ensues is a cat-and mouth chase that gets more and more personal, with Marhs and her team having to race against the clock to track down a killer who's a technical mastermind.

Diane Lane stars as a new type of woman, one who works hard to maintain a delicate balance between her life as a single mother of an intelligent 8-year-old daughter and her ever-demanding job as a law enforcement officer. Each night, Jennifer Marsh trolls the Internet world with her younger partner Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks, Tom's son), trying to crack down on credit card fraud and sexual predators from the bureau's field office, in Portland, Oregon.

When Jennifer and Griffin receive a tip regarding a creepy new website called Killwithme.com, they begin to monitor it in an effort to determine its authenticity and location.

At first, the site seems too outrageous to be true, and when the creator begins with stranding a kitten on a sticky rat trap, her bosses dismiss the case as a minor one. However, when the killer calls on viewers to spread the word, and they follow, the cat dies in slow-mo on camera.

Producers Tom Rosenberg and Gary Lucchesi say that the timeliness f the screenplay made it irresistible. “The cyber-crime unit of the FBI is relatively new,” says Lucchesi, It was established just six or seven years ago.” For him, “Untraceable” was intriguing, because it “focuses on a case that's unusual, because it doesn't deal with child abuse or credit card theft. It deals with somebody who's actually committing a murder and is using the Internet to facilitate it. The public is watching and the more people tune in, the faster the victim dies.”

After they read the script, the producers decided to hire Gregory Hoblit, whose impressive resume includes the feature “Primal Fear,” the thriller that put Edward Norton on the map, as well as episodes of TV series such as “NYPD Blue” and “Hill Street Blues.” More recently, Hoblit directed New Line's elegant suspenser “Fracture,” co-starring Ryan Gosling and Anthony Hopkins.

The director's relationship to law enforcement goes beyond his Hollywood career, however: His father was an FBI agent! Hoblit's meticulous attention to detail made him an ideal choice, as his frequent collaborator, producer Howard “Hawk” Koch Jr. notes: “If you're going to do a movie about cyber detectives, you better know your subject matter. We really investigated the technical stuff, so hopefully all the cyber geeks out there will appreciate the film's authenticity.”

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