Monday, October 23, 2017

Cube (1997)

There’s a joke that NASA spent millions of dollars to create a pen that worked in space whereas its Soviet counterpart was content using pencils.  If the story is true, I’m sure there’s more to it than the punch line lets on. However, it does make a point; sometimes, simplicity is best.  Take a movie, for instance.  Get rid of the fancy editing and CGI.  Forget the cast of thousands.  Pare down the sets to just one or two.  What are you left with?  You’re left with a movie like Cube.

It starts out with a man in a room which, coincidentally, happens to be a cube of all things.  He walks through the room only to hear a sound and subsequently find himself sliced to death.  I mention this because it sets the tone of the movie.

Six other people meet up by traveling from room to room.  We have Leaven, a math student; Rennes, who can escape from prisons; Holloway, a medical professional; Quentin, a police officer; Worth, a paper pusher and Kazan, a savant with some sort of cognitive/mental disorder.  They don’t remember being brought to the cube, nor do they know what the cube is.

Each face of the room, whether it be wall, ceiling or floor, has a door in the center.  Each door has a set of three numbers.  The room on the other side may or may not have a trap, so hold on to your boots.  No, really.  They’ll need them to test the room for traps.

The biggest plan is cooperating.  As you might imagine, tension runs high.  The assumption is that the government is behind their imprisonment.  Who else would have the resources?  (No Mr. Tsoukalos; it’s not aliens.  Probably not.)  Either way, there’s still the issue of getting out.  Leaven is able to figure out that prime numbers are key to figuring out which rooms are trapped.  She’s also able to infer the size of the overall structure and which room to be in if they want to get out.

You might not think you could make a feature-length film out of a concept like this, but Vincenzo Natali did.  Not only that, but it spawned two additional movies, as sequel and a prequel.  (Natali wasn’t involved in either one.)  The big problem with the movie is that, in the absence of high-end effects and whatnot, dialogue has to carry the movie.  Having read other reviews, I might be in the minority here in thinking that it does.

The biggest thing you have to get rid of with a movie like this is expectations.  If you’re coming in expecting to find the meaning of life, you’re going to be disappointed.  If you’re looking for something that can showcase six people trapped in a maze they know nothing about, you’ve found a pretty good one.  It’s one that can even capture your attention through to the end.  There is a certain suspense as the characters alternate between helping and bickering.   Imagine you found yourself in that situation.  How do you think you’d react?

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