Cube: Seven strangers trapped in a box with bite

Remember those cartoons from your childhood? The ones where a character runs through a screen door before falling into neatly cubed chunks? Welcome to the opening sequence for Cube. While the film is mostly a dialogue between the characters, there are still a few scenes of rather graphic violence that are not for the squeamish.

Seven seemingly disparate people wake to find themselves alone in a 4m cube, that for all the world looks like the inside of the Lemarchand puzzle box from Hellraiser. There is a small door in the floor, the ceiling and each of the walls. Each person is wearing a utilitarian tunic with their name stencilled on it. There is no food or water. They have no idea of how they ended up in their individual cells and their only choice is to stay where they are or explore.

Alderson [Julian Richings] is the first inhabitant of the cube to start exploring. While he doesn’t get to meet any of the others, he does serve to point out to the audience that while the rooms of the cube may look similar, some hold nasty surprises.

Five of the remaining captives stumble into each other in the course of their own explorations. The manic Rennes [Wayne Robson] recruits the others to follow him. He’s a man with a history of successfully escaping from prison and his reasons for helping the others is purely for the use of their boots as a means of testing for booby traps. Rennes has an ability for detecting traps, but his demise comes about when he triggers a trap he couldn’t sense. Now the four are left to ponder how they are going to be able to get out if a professional escape artist can’t.

Quentin [Maurice Dean Wint] is a cop who uses his skills in dealing with the public in stressful situations to coalesce the four individuals into a rough group. He also questions if perhaps they each have a skill that could help the whole.

Holloway [Nicky Guadagni] is a doctor, a sceptic and a conspiracy nut, she believes that the government is behind their imprisonment.

Leaven [Nicole de Boer] is a schoolgirl with a knack for maths and a talent for calculating large numbers in her head. She discovers that the numbers in the doorways of the cube are indicators of whether a room is a trap.

Worth [David Hewlett] is a quiet engineer, quiet in a sense of almost gibbering in fear as he realises they may well be doomed. He argues with Holloway over her conspiracy theories, claiming that nobody is in control. A argument finally backed by the revelation that he was commissioned by an unknown client to design the shell of the cube, he knows that there is only one door out, but not where it is. His knowledge gives Leaven the means to work out that the cube has 26 rooms to a side, making a total of 17576 rooms. While this information does little to calm Worth, it does allow Leaven to make the leap that the door numbers are in fact co-ordinates that mark their position within the cube.

Kazan [Andrew Miller] literally drops on top of the other four captives. He is a young retarded man, possibly autistic, but definitely withdrawn. Kazan becomes a trigger for some changes in the others. Holloway gains humanity in his presence, but Quentin starts to lose his when he proposes that they leave him behind. Kazan’s inclusion in the group seems a mystery until they discover he is a savant with the ability to calculate enormous numbers that far outstrips Leaven’s.

Vincenzo Natali‘s direction is crisp and sharp as he follows his characters through the cube. Each character has an ability that can help the group escape the cube, but none of them can do it alone. They must work together if they hope to escape their prison. He captures their urgency, panic and fatigue as well as their personal progress as some of them grow, while others unravel.

The single room set is a masterpiece, colour changes signify the movement from one cell to another and serve to empathise the audience with the characters plight — it is both claustrophobically small and mind bogglingly huge at the same time. Sound is well utilised to give the cube a solid feel and the ominous rumblings add to the general menace of the environment.

There is some gore in this movie. It is used sparingly and does serve to illustrate the dangers the group face in the cube. The effects are dramatic and very well done. They are graphic enough to shock the audience, especially when contrasted to the austere nature of the rooms.

If you’re looking for answers, forget it. These people are rats in a maze and it is their interaction that is the story and not the environment they find themselves in.

This is a film that was recommended to me and I found that I really enjoyed it. I liked the mystery of the cube and the fact that it isn’t explained. I also like the ending, but it will definitely disappoint some viewers. It’s a smart science fiction thriller that easily overcomes its budget limitations. While not a film that will please all, this is definitely worth a look.

The characters are named after prisons, a little trivia I didn’t twig to immediately. Although I was wondering why they sounded familiar.


Published Epinions — 02.10.2000
Published WrittenByMe — 08.04.2001
DVD available from Amazon, Amazon UK and DevotedDVD.

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