Cube (1997, directed by Vincenzo Natali) is a surreal experience dripping in atmosphere and tension, while also delving into the human psyche.
The film is about a seemingly random group of people who’ve been kidnapped and thrown into a large cube structure full of different rooms. What makes the prospect even worse is that some of the rooms are rigged with deadly traps meant to kill a person when they enter.
Our group of survivors consist of Quentin (Maurice Dean Wint), a detective and de facto leader; Holloway (Nicky Guadagni), a doctor; Leaven (Nicole de Boer), a high school student who’s really good at math; Worth (David Hewlett), a pessimistic man who’s slow to trust or reveal much about himself; Kazan (Andrew Miller), who’s on the spectrum; and Rennes (Wayne Robson), a prison escape artist who’s escaped seven prisons.
While the synopsis might get one to think that the film might be action packed, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. The film is very slow. Big chunks of the movie involve character building and interaction.
Speaking of characters, they’re the strongest parts of the films. While most films would give most if not all the characters one character trait, two if they’re daring, the characters in this film have three to five character traits.
For instance, Holloway isn’t just the doctor, she’s also a conspiracy theorist, cares alot about her material goods, is motherly towards Kazan, and frequently butts heads with Quentin.
Because of the smaller number of roles, none of the characters feel like a waste of space or are just there to die.
Each character has an important role, whether it’s a skill, or piece of knowledge. All of the characters are useful one way or another, it’s just some are a bit more important than others.
Because of this, when a character dies it’s a lot more impactful than if the cast were larger, not just because they’re more fleshed out, but because the group loses a critical skill that they may need in the future.
The movie has some fun twists and turns throughout. Sometimes characters who start out one way become very different characters by the end of the film.
This is a lower budget film (only $290,325) but it works to its benefit. The world and traps feel real and grungy, not flashy.
Despite the lower budget the traps are imaginative and well executed. What’s neat is the variety of traps. They’re not all triggered the same way, and some are easier to escape from than others.
Despite the great writing and imaginative ideas, the film has problems.
Sometimes the characters make mistakes that go beyond normal reason. It’s a bit more understandable here as they’re hungry, dehydrated, and slowly losing it, but some are a bit harder to stomach than others. Like some characters not telling others key information, or characters blindly rushing into rooms without fully checking them out.
The ending also feels it was made more depressing for the sake of it being more depressing, and doesn’t make much sense in context.
Worth as a character is interesting, but his “woe is me” personality can get really annoying really fast.
And something that I personally liked but others might not, is that the film leaves a lot up to interpretation. Why these people were kidnapped and what’s going on with the outside world is never really explained or shown. While I think this works to the film’s benefit, it might annoy some people who like having all mysteries answered by the end of the film.
Cube is a film that’s full of interesting characters and ideas that sometimes get carried away in its own melodrama.
Patrick will soon be starring in the Highline production Cubed, where a student actually needs to remember what they learned in algebra to survive.