14 ago. 2015

Cube (6/10): Gripping atmosphere, but poor performances

"That's the real challenge. You've gotta save yourselves from yourselves.”

Shot in only 20 days with a hand-held camera in a single 14'x14' cubical set and a very low budget, this minimalist Canadian sci-fi horror film has become a cult favorite for many. Directed in 1997 by Vincenzo Natali, this was his first feature film and it still remains as one of his most popular ones, although Splice has also been warmly received by critics and seen by many more people thanks to its much bigger budget. He’s also directed several TV series, including Hannibal which in my opinion stands out for its cinematograpy. Natali also co-wrote this original script with Andre Bijelic and Graeme Manson (creator and producer of another hit series, Orphan Black). For its minimalist approach, Cube does manage to stand out and deliver several thrills along the way, but five minutes into the movie I feared I knew what direction the story was heading, and unfortunately it did, so it was a bit of a letdown. However the journey was quite a pleasant and gripping one, so the movie did flow at a strong pace and I was engaged with it original premise.

The film begins with a man (Julian Richings) waking up inside a cube-shaped room without any recollection as to how he got there. There is one door on every side of the cube, leading to other same shaped rooms although with different colors. According to the suit he’s wearing his name is Alderson. As he leaves one of the rooms and enters a new one he is sliced into small pieces by a trap consisting of thin wires. We later discover that there are more people in the cube when a small group of them find each other in one room. A police officer named Quentin (Maurice Dean Wint), an architect named Worth (David Hewlett), a doctor named Holloway (Nicky Guadagni), an escape artist named Rennes (Wayne Robson), and a mathematician named Leaven (Nicole de Boer) all seem to have woken up in the same condition as Alderson and they are fighting their way through this maze trying to avoid the traps hidden in some of the rooms. They seem to have nothing in common as their personalities completely differ from one another, and they have no idea who could’ve put them in such a place. They do decide to stick together and try using their different talents to avoid the deadly traps as they move along through the maze looking for an escape. As the story unfolds and these characters begin interacting with one another tension and suspicion begin to rise among them. 

David Hewlett who has worked with Vincenzo Natali in all his feature films gets one of the lead roles here along with Maurice Dean Wint and Nicole de Boer. The performances in this film are the weakest link. Some of the dialogue scenes seemed forced and most of the characters’ interactions felt unauthentic. The greatest problem was that most of these characters behaved in an inconsistent manner and the pressure they go through isn’t a convincing reason for it. Quentin’s character is the one who goes through the strongest transformation here and I just didn’t feel it was natural. Other than the performances and the predictable finale, I did enjoy this small film and found the premise quite inventive despite its simplicity. With a stronger cast this could’ve been a great sci-fi horror film because Natali excels at setting the right atmosphere which creates a thrilling environment. The mood of this film reminded me a lot of Saw and I’m sure it was inspired by Natali’s work.       

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