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This is a very strange movie. About 50% of the film takes place in a dream. The ratings board rated this movie R for a reason I've never heard them use before... bizarre violence.
The film opens up in a dream as we see Jennifer Lopez walking through the desert in a white feathery gown. In the middle of this landscape are a group of dead trees surrounding a young boy. Jennifer tries to get him to talk about a toy boat she has picked up but it is broken. Suddenly he turns into a devil like creature and Jennifer wakes up. Jennifer is a child therapist enlisted to help with a neurological study project. This project lets her enter the mind of another person. In this case, the small kid is in a coma and Jennifer is trying to communicate with him during his dreamlike state. He had been in a boating accident much earlier and has been in a coma ever since. She is trying to convince him, while in his mind to come out of the coma.
At the same time this is going on, a psychologically disturbed killer named Carl is kidnapping young women, trapping them in a special "CELL" he has built that traumatizes his victims then drowns them in a forty hour time period. Carl then performs sadistic acts with their dead bodies.
After his latest victim has been kidnapped, the FBI led by Vince Vaughn finally track him down from a hair off of Carl's albino husky. As they are breaking down his door, Carl is in the middle of a seizure that leaves him in a coma. The latest girl can't be found and the only answer to her whereabouts are in Carl's mind. They have less than forty hours to find her.
If only they knew someone that could enter Carl's mind and find the girl...
Cut back to Jennifer's project. She agrees to enter Carl's mind to see what he's up to. Once inside his mind, she finds a young Carl, probably about 12 years old. She learns that young Carl had been abused by his father and started hearing voices from a beast during his baptism.
This beast is from the very evil dark side of Carl's schizophrenic mind. The beast is so powerful that it captures Jennifer and actually makes her believe that it is all real. She can't get out of the dream.
Luckily, the institute has two devices that can enter one persons brain at the same time. Vince Vaughn puts on the suit and headpiece and enters Carl's mind to rescue Jennifer. Once there, things just keep getting weirder and weirder. Vince is captured by the beast and while Vince is getting his intestines slowly pulled from his stomach, he screams to Jennifer to snap out of it. To force her to remember her real life, he tells her about her baby brother that was in a car accident while she was in college. He was in a coma for 6 months before he died. Jennifer is suddenly back with us and she stabs the beast, enabling the two of them to "wake up" and get back to reality.
Vince remembers a symbol he saw during his dream that was in Carl's apartment. He tracks down the source of the symbol and the FBI puts the pieces together and figure out where the girl must be.
Meanwhile, Jennifer goes back to the project room and re-enters the dream state. This time she reversed the system and now Carl is in HER dream. She is in a heavenly type of land and Jennifer looks like the Virgin Mary. Young Carl comes to her and he tells her of a time when he found a bird but to keep his father from brutally killing it, Carl drowned it, saving the bird from his father's torture.
While this is happening Vince is getting frustrated because the site he thought the girl might be at is abandoned. He then sees a handle in the middle of the dirt parking lot. He lifts the handle and discovers a whole other room underground. He finds and rescues the girl just as the water has gone over her head.
Cut back to Jennifer's dream...
While she is comforting the young Carl, suddenly the beast appears. Jennifer stabs the beast in the chest with a sword. As the beast is lying down, bleeding with a sword in his chest, he laughs because this isn't real and Jennifer can't kill him. Jennifer takes the young Carl to the baptism pool and lays him down in the water while cradling him in her arms. Young Carl dies, as does the beast, as well as the Carl in a coma at the research center. Much like Carl did with the bird, she has saved Carl from the beast.
As the movie begins to end, Vince discusses with Jennifer about the young kid from the beginning of the film. Maybe she will try the reverse process with that kid too. We then see Jennifer talking with the young kid in the same dream, landscape and feathery outfit from the beginning. This time however, the dead trees are filled with flowers blooming, it is snowing outside and Jennifer has the same boat but this time, it's not broken.
The young boy comes to her, finally she is making progress with him.
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