Cube

* 1/2*

Vincenzo Natali directs this science fiction thriller with an intriguing premise. Unfortunately, there's little to Cube besides that premise and some creative filmmaking techniques.

The plot of Cube seems to have fallen right out of the Twilight Zone. Six complete strangers (well, there's a seventh...but he's a goner pre-credits) awaken in a strange place. They're stuck in a series of idential cubic rooms. Each room has a door in the center of each wall, in the floor and in the ceiling. Each door leads to another identical room. Well, not quite identical...the rooms vary in color and many of the rooms contain elaborate deathtraps.

Quick to take charge of the situation is Quentin (Maurice Dean Wint), a cop who believes they can conquer the situation with teamwork and strong leadership. Rennes (Wayne Robson) has a different idea. He's a master escape artist, confident he can escape this bizarre prison.

Holloway (Nicky Guadagni) is a bleeding-heart doctor who's wary of anyone wanting to take charge. Worth (David Hewlett) seems to know more than he lets on. Leaven (Nicole de Boer), a math student, has no idea why she is here, and Kazan (Andrew Miller) is an autistic man who doesn't seem to be of any help at all.

Can these six people survive the deathtraps and one another to discover the purpose of (and escape from) this cube-maze? Can they survive one another?

Any film which essentially drops its six actors into a box for its duration is obviously going to need strong characters and dialog. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Cube lacks. The characters are mere archetypes (including one who inexplicably switches as the film goes on). Their interactions are forced and uninteresting. Nicole de Boer displays a little charisma as the most likeable prisoner. But after the first hour, even she begins to wear thin.

What are Cube's strengths? Well, it does have an ingenious set design. Only one cube-room was actually designed and used to represent the entire structure. The special effects are also particularly good (if a bit gruesome)...you can't tell the film had a shoestring budget.

But an interesting premise and an interesting design can't change the fact that while watching Cube, you feel like you're in your own deathtrap cube room.

[R - some strong sci-fi violence/gore and language] (Trimark)


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