SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Diane Lane got a crash course in pixilated evil when she signed up to play an FBI cyber agent in “Untraceable,” and thanks to her time studying the bureau’s online crime investigations, the actress learned more than she ever wanted to know about the darker regions of the Internet.
“I’m so naive that I didn’t know that viruses did not spontaneously occur, like in nature,” Lane said during a press day for “Untraceable.” in Santa Monica, Calif. “No, some brainiac sat down and figured out how to make everybody miserable, like an arsonist. Why? Do you have nothing better to do with your life? I don’t know what to say — I’m so disappointed in human beings, and myself, for not knowing better.”
But, as the central premise to “Untraceable” asserts, Lane is not alone, and Internet crime is constantly evolving. An entire floor of a federal building in Portland, Ore., is filled with FBI agents who spend every day surfing the Web, ferreting out crimes ranging from petty scams to child pornography.
Set partly in that building, “Untraceable” centers on a harrowing series of online murders in which the speed of the killings is determined by the number of visits or “hits” on the Web site. Because Hollywood’s short history of Internet-related movies is filled with cinematic spam — films with unrealistic plots and even more unrealistic computer graphics — director Gregory Hoblit wanted to make “Untraceable” technologically accurate.
Hoblit said he first became aware of shoddy Internet movies shortly after making 1996’s “Primal Fear,” when one of the film’s stars, Edward Norton, clued him into a cyber movie crime.
“There was a movie that came out called ‘The Net,’ and Edward went to see ‘The Net,’ and he called me up and said, ‘I have just seen the worst movie I have ever seen, where these guys just didn’t give a damn about anything being accurate,’” Hoblit said. “He was just appalled. That stuck in my head. I think audiences these days are pretty sophisticated. They know when they’re being messed with; they know when people are playing fast and loose.”
So, when Hoblit started assembling his team for “Untraceable,” he looked for experts who could provide a sense of reality that did not feel virtual. He consulted with two FBI cyber-agents: E.J. Hilbert, who specialized in computer intrusions and fraud and now works as a security expert for MySpace; and Jane Brillheart, a special agent who frequently goes online posing as teenage girls to catch sexual predators.