Oct 31, 2014

[Movies] Cube (1997)

The irony is not lost on me that my appreciation for the psychological horror movie Cube never translated into an appreciation for the Saw movies. At the same time, I've only seen that first Cube movie - I never got around to watching the others. But it remains one of the stranger movies that I've enjoyed over the years despite my general dislike for most horror flicks.

But Cube is more than just a horror movie. If anything, it's a ridiculously intelligent one - or at least one with a rather intelligent mathematical puzzle at its core. With a title like Cube, you should have already figured out that math would somehow be involved. But the way to integrated into the story worked our rather well.

Come to think of it, I was first introduced to his movie by one of my math professors in college. I forget precisely what year this happened, but I remember it being a sort of extra credit assignment to watch it and write about what we noticed in terms of the math in the movie. But let's not get too far ahead of the plot just yet.

Synopsis: Cube is a 1997 science fiction psychological horror movie directed and co-written by Vincenzo Natali together with writers André Bijelic and Graeme Manson. The movie went on to inspire both a sequel and a prequel.

Things begin with a man named Alderson (Julian Richings) waking up in a cube-shaped room with no memory of how he got there. The walls seem uniform in design with a single hatch located in the center of each surface - this involves all four walls and both the floor and the ceiling. The only major differences between the rooms are the colors of each room as influenced by the lighting. He eventually picks a room almost at random and is quickly sliced into little pieces by a wire grill of sorts. And this opening scene just introduces us to the deadliness of the Cube as a whole.

The real story begins with five people waking up in the Cube - a police officer named Quentin (Maurice Dean Wint), a math student Leaven (Nicole de Boer), Dr. Helen Halloway (Nicky Guadagni), an escape artist named Rennes (Wayne Robson), and David Worth (David Hewlett). They all experience the same sort of amnesia and have no clue as to how they got into the Cube. And the group then try to work together to figure out the nature of the Cube, how to evade its traps and ultimately to find a way out.

The movie feels a lot like a theater piece given the rather minimal set and all he dialog. This is where the movie shines and yet also stumbles as we get to moment to moment. There's a lot of opportunity for compelling dialog as they unravel more of the mysteries of the Cube. But some of the rather poor acting diminishes the impact of some of the scenes along with some less than ideal lines.

But when you get past the inconsistent acting and dialog, what you're left with is a pretty compelling puzzle. And while it's perfectly fine to just enjoy the ride and see how things unfold on their own. But there's also the joy in pulling out a pen and a pad of paper to try and figure out the Cube for yourself. The clues will be there for you to find as the character find them - but figuring them out is the real mystery.

Each individual serves some sort of a purpose in the group's chances of surviving the Cube. But as is the way of these movies, you also know that the group can't possibly survive intact. And the movie continues to kill off characters at almost regular intervals, whether this is because of the traps built into the Cube or perhaps just the dangers of the people themselves. After all, any story that involves a fixed group of individuals in a high-pressure situation will lead to increased tensions over time.

Cube is not a perfect movie, but it is an interesting one with some pretty compelling moments. It can get a bit wordy at times and the higher math related thinking can drive some people batty. In the end, the movie gets 3.5 killer traps in the Cube out of a possible 5.

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