This terrific compilation clip by FourFour‘s Rich Juzwiak demonstrates what a hoary cliché it has become to explain why movie characters aren’t using their cell phones.
I plead guilty, having used the “signal goes away” variation as a major element in Part Three of The Nines. (I feel both disappointment and relief to have not made the cut.)
Unlike the air duct cliché, the cell phone problem can’t be solved by a simple vow of chastity. Cell phones are real things people use every day, so ignoring them is rarely an option for a movie set present day.
Don’t write movies in which characters would call for help. That’s probably the best advice I can offer.