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Review: Cube

Natali’s cult favorite is boxed in by its own intriguing central premise.

Photo: Trimark Pictures

Vincenzo Natali’s Cube is a film boxed in by its own intriguing central premise. A group of strangers awaken to find themselves in an empty high-tech room with doors in the middle of each wall. Going out to explore what’s on the other side of their strange new homes, they discover identical rooms (save for the different colors), some of which have been equipped with deadly booby traps. Six people eventually find each other in this cubist maze, all determined to find a way out of their mysterious prison before starving or going mad. Natali’s cult favorite has a Twilight Zone mood that’s initially quite chilling—the victims try to come to grips with their bizarre surroundings and the tension mounting among each other. A high strung police officer (Maurice Dean Wint) finds his leadership instincts challenged by a panicky psychiatrist (Nicky Guadagni), a brainy mathematician (Nicole deBoer), a brooding architect (David Hewlett) and a professional escape artist (Wayne Robson), and the group’s progress from room to room—aided by their rudimentary guesses as to which rooms contain fatal surprises—is helped by the introduction of an annoying autistic (Andrew Miller) who mumbles and fidgets like a third-rate Rain Man. As bafflement and anxiety give way to paranoia and rage, Cube begins to rely less on its atmospheric setting and more on inter-character relationships, and the script (by André Bijelic, Vincenzo Natali and Graeme Manson) isn’t up to the task. While some of the traps are frighteningly unpredictable and gruesomely satisfying—director Paul W. Anderson would blatantly rip off the film’s best death scene in 2002’s Resident Evil—the characters don’t amount to more than threadbare types. The struggle to discern the cube’s purpose increasingly takes on prominence in the frazzled crew’s search for answers, but Natali’s film is infinitely more competent at creating a clever situation then positing any sort of semi-logical explanation. Have these people been abducted by aliens, co-opted by the government as guinea pigs for an elaborate experiment, or are they simply living out a shared nightmare? The film never really makes up its mind (or doesn’t really care) so long as it provides a few decent scares along the way, and sci-fi and horror fans will be somewhat grateful for that. But like lab rats futilely running on their treadmill, Cube eventually winds up going nowhere fast.

Cast: Maurice Dean Wint, Nicky Guadagni, Nicole deBoer, David Hewlett, Wayne Robson, Andrew Miller Director: Vincenzo Natali Screenwriter: André Bijelic, Vincenzo Natali, Graeme Manson Distributor: Trimark Pictures Running Time: 90 min Rating: R Year: 1997 Buy: Video

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