Saturn Will Not Sleep - Discovery (Official Video)

Cube   C

Trimark Pictures

Year Released: 1997 (USA: 1998)
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Writers: André Bijelic, Graeme Manson, Vincenzo Natali
Cast: Nicole de Boer, Nicky Guadagni, David Hewlett, Andrew Miller, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson, Maurice Dean Wint.

Review by Gauti Fridriksson

1997's Cube, from Canadian director Vincenzo Natali, really wants to be a tough, atmospheric, engaging science fiction thriller, and it's got many of the requisite ingredients: an interesting premise, some neat atmospherics, very competently handled special effects, and even some nice plot twists. Unfortunately, it also lacks some of the crucial ingredients that make a film good in any genre: acting, believable characters, and a good script. Which is sad, because this one had the looks of a real winner.

The premise: six people wake up stranded in a maze of cube-shaped rooms, each 14 feet in diameter. They have to make their way out before they succumb to hunger, thirst, or their own wavering sanity which, as we will see before it's all over, can disappear rapidly in a place such as this. One of the film's problems becomes apparent right at the start. The characters, while not blatantly stereotypical, are implausible in their motivations and seem at times to be more concerned with advancing the plot than acting like real people. The only time we are given any deeper insight into their psyches is just before they are killed. This unintentionally evokes the countless noble ensigns we have seen on Star Trek, who have bravely marched lemming-style to their doom after being introduced and given one defining detail ("Ensign Skippy is a master speed-read... oh, dear. Was a master speed-reader."). For a movie that does not have a colon and roman numerals in its title, this does not bode well.

The performances are almost uniformly bad. The actors, waddling around with seemingly little or no direction, trudge through their roles as if they don't really have a clue as to who their characters are, and with a script like this, who could blame them? Particularly tiresome is a female doctor played by Nicky Guadagni, who takes her lines and wrings every last drop of blood out of them, making hers one of the most shrilly annoying characters I've seen in a film recently. The only passable actor is David Hewlett in the role of Worth, who pulls off the Silent Stranger With a Secret schtick with aplomb.

Despite all of its shortcomings, Cube did, at times, manage to grip me. It has an oppressive, eerie atmosphere, it plays its cards right by making certain aspects of the plot a mystery, and the filmmakers must be praised for the daunting task of creating an original sci-fi setting with only one set, a limited amount of cash and a tight schedule. But still, every time things were getting exciting, every time I felt like I was becoming involved, someone said something out of character or put exactly the wrong spin on a line of dialogue, chipping away at my suspended disbelief until it had all but evaporated. By the halfway point, my only interest in watching had become seeing in what inventive way the next character would bite the dust. Inventive death traps are this film's strongest point; one hapless fellow wanders into a 14-foot egg-slicer grid, effectively becoming diced into cubes (no responsibility taken for perceived puns).

Ultimately, this is a movie built on a great concept, sporting a good story, but saddled with a silly script and sub-par actors. Let's just hope the Canadian film industry has the same penchant for remakes as Hollywood does. Then maybe in 20 or so years we'll see this story done right.

Review published 03.26.2001.

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