Cube (1997)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #21

Don’t look for a reason.
Look for a way out.

Country: Canada
Language: English
Runtime: 90 minutes
BBFC: 15
MPAA: R

Original Release: 11th July 1998 (Netherlands)
UK Release: 25th September 1998
First Seen: TV, c.2000

Stars
Maurice Dean Wint (Rude, Nothing)
David Hewlett (Scanners II: The New Order, Cypher)
Nicole de Boer (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Corrupt)
Nicky Guadagni (Crash, Lars and the Real Girl)
Wayne Robson (Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road, Survival of the Dead)

Director
Vincenzo Natali (Cypher, Splice)

Screenwriters
Andre Bijelic
Vincenzo Natali (Splice, In the Tall Grass)
Graeme Manson (Rupert’s Land, Orphan Black)

The Story
Six strangers wake up inside a mysterious 14-foot cube, its walls covered with circuit-like designs and each wall containing a door… which leads to another cube, identical but for the colour scheme. They soon realise that some of these rooms are boobytrapped with death-dealing devices. If they combine their different backgrounds and strengths, perhaps they can find a way out…

Our Heroes
The six individuals we follow are a fractious bunch. You may side with one or two, but at any given moment something might happen to make you rethink who should or should not be trusted.

Our Villain
The Cube itself is the enemy here… although with the amount our group fight amongst themselves, maybe it’s not the only problem…

Best Supporting Character
Part way through the film, our gang come across Kazan, who clearly has some kind of mental problem. I thought Andrew Miller’s performance was decent, but pretty much every other review of the film criticises all of the acting, and I’ve never seen Rain Man (a regular point of comparison), so who knows?

Memorable Quote
Holloway: “What does it want? What is it thinking?”
Worth: “‘One down, four to go.'”

Memorable Scene
The opening scene, which quickly establishes the danger of the environment so succinctly and memorably that Resident Evil ripped it off a few years later.

Technical Wizardry
The characters move through many rooms in the cube, a challenge for a low-budget production… unless, of course, all the rooms are nearly identical: there was only one cube set, with coloured panels changed to suggest the different spaces.

Making of
All of the characters are named after famous prisons around the world. Not only that, but their personalities reflect the characteristics of those prisons. To say too much might spoil parts of the film for those who’ve not seen it, but the curious can find a fuller explanation here.

Next time…
There are two sequels to Cube, Hypercube and Cube Zero, each worse than the last. Don’t waste your time.

Awards
1 Saturn nomination (Home Video Release)
Toronto International Film Festival — Best Canadian First Feature Film

What the Critics Said
“They don’t agree on the best course of action, and might one of them be a spy for whomever is in charge? The grating mechanical noises that echo through the Cube all around them seem to be the manifestation of the stress they’re under, stress they act out on one another. Holloway estimates they have only a few days without food and water before they’re too weak to continue, and yet they slow themselves down with their virulent bickering. […] As Rennes says, “Ya gotta save yourselves from yourselves,” and they’re not doing a terribly good job of that.” — MaryAnn Johanson, flickfilosopher

Score: 62%

What the Public Say
“you can’t make [the plot] sound interesting — “for 90 minutes, people move through largely identical cubic rooms that want to kill them”. But it is interesting, mainly, and here’s where the Twilight Zone comparison is useful. […] the cast ends up filling somewhat allegorical roles: the Teacher, the Authoritarian, the Intellect, the Survivalist. And Cube, in finest Rod Serling fashion, plays out as a series of conundrums in which the audience is invited to think about how these different types, that is to say, these different worldviews and moral codes, interact with each other in a patently allegorical environment” — Tim Brayton, Antagony & Ecstasy

Elsewhere on 100 Films
I offered some thoughts on Cube when I watched the two sequels back in 2008: “In its series of careful, measured, necessary reveals, the film strikes a perfect balance between what it lets the viewer know — and the revelations are expertly paced throughout — and what it keeps hidden, either for the viewer to deduce or interpret for themselves, or simply because one doesn’t need to know. […] everyone interested in the more intelligent end of the sci-fi spectrum should see Cube.”

Verdict

Regular readers will know of my fondness for the single-location thriller. A lot of that likely stems back to Cube, which I think pioneered the form as a popular one for new filmmakers making low-budget genre pictures, and is the yardstick all others must measure up to, at least for me. Throw a mismatched group of characters into a confined, mysterious setting and, hey presto, instant drama. Cube remains one of the best because of both the mysteries of its location, and the pure tension director Vincenzo Natali creates as the cast try to avoid or evade the deadly traps.

Next… yippee-ki-yay, #23 !

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7 thoughts on “Cube (1997)

  1. I’ve always really loved this movie!! Nice review but where I’m different is I like the sequels as well and wouldn’t say they’re a waste of time at all. They give more information about why the Cube is there in the first place and the acting is no worse than the first movie ha ha. The second one is really similar anyway. Some of the effects in Cube Zero are a little naff but I think they have a fairly popular cult following and it just adds to it haha!

    Special thanks for listing what other movies the actors have been in, that was pretty interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t feel like Cube gets the kudos it deserves these days, so it’s nice to find a fellow fan!

      I never knew the sequels had a following — I’ve always heard bad things about them, so thought that was the consensus. I didn’t feel what they revealed about the Cube added anything to the experience, but that’s just personal taste I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Always been a fan 🙂 me and my dad watched it so many years ago, DVD rental from Blockbusters, that’s how long ago it was ha ha! I enjoy the ‘strangers waking up in a room’ type of format anyway. Maybe that’s partly down to Cube! My ears always prick up when someone mentions it 🙂

        Yeah of course some people don’t like the sequels but similarly, of course some people do! There’s loads of good reviews for them online.

        I just felt to write them off as a ‘waste of time’ was a little unfair to be honest. As a Cube fan myself I’ve enjoyed watching them and I know other people have too. But like you say, all down to personal taste! I’m not being argumentative, just sticking up for a franchise I’ve enjoyed watching, I can’t help myself!!! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, not everything is going to be everyone’s cup of tea, especially when it comes to movies like this that don’t seek to pander to the lowest common denominator. Maybe I’ll give the sequels another go someday.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I don’t think you’ll like the characters any better — they’re not the nicest bunch! It’s definitely a movie that’s driven by the mysteries of its concept rather than by the likeability of its characters.

      Liked by 1 person

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