Set in Portland, Oregon, the film involves a serial killer who rigs contraptions that kill his victims based on the number of hits received by a website KillWithMe.com that features a live streaming video of the victim. Millions of people log on, hastening the victims' deaths.
Special Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) is a widowed single parent living in a suburban Portland home with her daughter, Annie Haskins (Perla Haney-Jardine), and her mother, Stella Marsh (Mary Beth Hurt). At night, she works in the FBI's cybercrime division with Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks), fighting identity theft and similar crimes. One night, an anonymous tip leads them to a website called KillWithMe.com. The site features a streaming video of a cat being tortured and killed. The website cannot be shut down, as the creator knew that someone would try and built into it a fail-safe; every time the server is closed, a mirror server immediately replaces it.
After the cat's death, KillWithMe.com's webmaster graduates to human victims, kidnapping them and placing them in death traps that are progressively activated by the number of hits the website receives. The first victim is a helicopter pilot (bled to death by injections of anticoagulant), followed by a newscaster (burnt to death by heat lamps while cemented into the floor). At a press conference, the public is urged to avoid the website, but as Jennifer feared this only increases the site's popularity.
Griffin is kidnapped after investigating a lead based on his hunch as to the killer's identity. In the killer's basement, he is submerged up to his neck in a vat of water with his mouth taped shut; the death trap introduces into the water a concentration of sulfuric acid. After the killer leaves the room, Griffin uses his dying moments to blink a message in morse code, giving the FBI the lead he was following up on.
Jennifer follows up on the morse code message to discover that the victims were not random: they were involved in broadcasting or presenting the suicide of a junior college teacher. The teacher's unstable techno prodigy son, Owen Reilly (Joseph Cross), broke down and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. When released, he decided to take revenge and prove a point: that the public's interest in the suffering of others is insatiable, as well as to wreak vengeance on those he felt had exploited his father's death. Griffin was killed because he came too close to discovering the murderer's identity.
The police raid Owen's house but he is not present. Owen has been following Jennifer because he is now obsessed with her. He captures and places Jennifer in a makeshift death trap: hanging her above a cultivator and progressively lowering her to her death. Jennifer escapes by swinging out of the way while dangling from the ceiling. She breaks free and pins down the murderer, fatally shooting Owen on his own website as the police arrive. Owen ends up like his father, his death caught on camera and shown all over the internet. Jennifer displays her FBI badge to the webcam.
The chatter in the website's chat room dwindles, statements being made such as "a genius died today" as well as "glad the killer is dead" and another one saying "You go girl!", and a final comment asking whether the video could be downloaded.Diane Lane as FBI Agent Jennifer Marsh
Colin Hanks as FBI Agent Griffin Dowd
Billy Burke as Detective Eric Box
Joseph Cross as Owen Reilly
Mary Beth Hurt as Stella Marsh
Tyrone Giordano as Tim Wilkes
Perla Haney-Jardine as Annie Haskins
Christopher Cousins as David Williams
Tim De Zarn as Herbert Miller
Peter Lewis as Richard Brooks
Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Arthur James Elmer
Dax Jordan as Scotty Hillman
John Breen as Richard Weymouth
Brynn Baron as Mrs. Miller
Phil Hamilton as Mr. Miller
The film was shot in and around Portland, Oregon. A temporary studio was constructed in Clackamas, Oregon, where all non-location photography was done, mostly interiors, including the FBI's cyber division, Jennifer Marsh's house, the FBI building elevator, several basements, etc. A scene set on the east end of the Broadway Bridge was shot both on the actual bridge as well as at the studio. A faux diner was built underneath the Broadway bridge, which was used in the movie. The birthday party for Perla Haney-Jardine's character Annie was filmed in the roller skating rink of Oaks Amusement Park.
Untraceable received negative reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 16% based on 148 reviews, with the site's consensus being, "Despite Diane Lane's earnest effort, Untraceable manages to be nothing more than a run-of-the-mill thriller with a hypocritical message"
Several critics viewed the film as hypocritical for indulging in the "torture porn" it condemns. It also met criticism for its climax which was seen as devolving into horror film clichés. Lane was praised for her performance in the film. Roger Ebert gave the film a favorable review, giving the film a 3 star rating.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave this film a strongly negative review giving it zero stars.
The film opened poorly, with an opening weekend of $11.3 million, below the $35 million budget. It grossed $51.8 million worldwide, on theatrical release.
On May 13, 2008, Untraceable was released on both DVD and Blu-ray. The DVD included an audio commentary and four featurettes.