Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cube (Movie Review)

Cube (1997) is the second film by Canadian writer/director Vincenzo Natali (who went on to make Splice), and it literally takes horror to another dimension with a darkly imaginative script and ambitious filmmaking.

The story begins with five strangers in a large room together with no memory of how they arrived and no clue why they are there. Quentin is a cop; Holloway, a "free" doctor; Rennes, an infamous escape artist; Worth, a nihilist and Leaven just goes to school. The characters don't exactly know what their function is but they assume they serve a purpose. (Trivia fact: all of the characters are named after famous prisons).

As they struggle for survival, the audience witnesses the several stages of their personality during their imprisonment. They ask all of the logical questions. Who is doing this to them? Holloway blames the conspiracy on the government or aliens. Quentin thinks it is "some rich psycho's entertainment". As they look around the room there's doors on each side leading to another room like an endless maze, so they decide to move together in a straight line until they reach an exit, because it has to end right? Rennes isn't interested in the groups questions and explains that their journey won't be so easy because the rooms are booby trapped with lethal technology (one man in the beginning gets cubed). He uses his boot as a precaution, but their fate relies on the rooms as they await in agony for anything to happen.

Their minds and bodies are tested beyond their limits, and in true Lord of the Flies fashion a survivalist group forms with a hero and a weak link. They are forced to work together even though the group is unlikely to talk to each other in the real world, but the cube brings an alternate world that plays like an episode of Twilight Zone. With no sense of direction, starvation and desperation take over the group's will and trust and they conspire against one another. They use clues from the passages to try and find their way out but as they reach dead ends it's easy to become hopeless, and the movie takes a violent turn. The true horror of the movie is in the characters and one of the key quotes from the movie comes from Rennes where he says "you've gotta save yourselves from yourselves". 

The time frame is not revealed and the mystery is not fully answered, but as the mastermind, Natali understands that by doing this the audience is forced in the cube with them with the same paranoia. He uses many closeup shots on the actors' faces to further push the effect of claustrophobia and his use of color in the rooms sets the rooms apart even though the design is the same (only one set room was used during filming). What's great about Cube is that it can't be broken down to one genre, there are some horror scenes (the sound room is my favorite), some sci-fi and the rest is a psychological thriller. As the prisoners starve and reach their boiling points they turn on each other in search of an answer and some reach hopelessness while others do whatever it takes to survive which is a reflection of our brain's "fight or flight" response.

The acting is probably the movies biggest downfall, there are no standout performances, but these are demanding roles. Quentin who plays good cop/bad cop (the main character) is the most believable and plays best alongside Worth but Holloway's constant pestering and laughable dialogue—at one point she refers to Quentin as a Nazi—grows tiring. The effects still hold up pretty good given that it was made over 15 years ago on such a low budget. The subpar acting and plot holes are more than made up for in the movie's mental terror and stylish approach. 

The conclusion is powerful and nihilistic in nature and makes the characters more evil than the cube itself. The film also has some pretty direct feelings towards the world outside of the cube, and creates a conceptual metaphor for humanity and the evil all humans hold inside. This is a low budget film powered by it's script and imagination; Natali managed to think outside of the box but trapped us all in it at the same time.

My Rating:

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