Cube / Cypher (1997/2002)
By: Rip on August 23, 2011  | 
Icon | Region B | 1.78:1, 1080p | English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 | 185 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Starring: Nicole de Boer, Maurice Dean Wint, David Hewlett / Jeremy Northam, Lucy Liu
Screenplay: Andre Bijelic, Vincenzo Natali, Graeme Manson / Brian King
Country: Canada / USA
External Links
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American director Vincenzo Natali has had an interesting career since he made his initial splash in 1997 with the independent Canadian feature, Cube, a gory science fiction thriller that has developed something of a cult following over time. After Cube, Natali then began continuous work storyboarding and directing various television series' and also functioning as storyboard artist to genre films such as Ginger Snaps and Johnny Mnemonic. Come 2002, he had another shot at a feature with the sci-fi/noir hybrid, Cypher (aka; Brainstorm), a film which, sadly, no-one saw. Natali then followed that one up in 2003 with Nothing, a film that may have been cursed with an unfortunate title, as that's exactly what happened to it. So it was back to television-land and documentaries for Natali, until he got up and running again recently with his long term labour of love, the 2009 sci-fi/horror flick, Splice, a Canadian/French/American co-production starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley. Though that film did divide audiences with some of its more 'questionable' aspects, it was generally well received by the critics, with some even proclaiming it to be the best sci-fi movie in quite some time. You'll have to decide that one for yourselves. But in the meantime, and probably due to the moderate success of Splice, Icon Entertainment have chosen to give us Vincenzo Natali's first two features on the one Blu-ray disc, and as far as I understand, this is the first time anywhere that both Cube and Cypher have appeared in the HD format.

Cube opens with a group of strangers waking up in a cubic room with absolutely no idea of how they got there. The ceiling, the floor and each of the four walls sport a hatch which leads to an another identical room, and another, and another, each one glowing with a different colour. But some of these rooms contain particularly nasty traps... How will they know which one is booby-trapped? What is this giant cube they are in and who made it? What is its purpose and, most importantly, how do they escape?

Vincenzo Natali's first feature is a triumph of economy and innovative film-making. Whilst he has admitted that it was inspired by The Twilight Zone episode, 'Four Characters In Search Of An Exit', it is also an extension of Natali's previous short, Elevated, which concerned three people locked in a jammed elevator. Whilst Cube may sound limited in scope, the film plays out in a series of moves that has the audience gripped from beginning to end. Though we never know anything about the characters of the six individuals trapped inside, the tense scenario quickly reveals who they are as people and the way they play off one another becomes as fascinating as the plot itself. The simple production design looks terrific and Natali displays a deft hand as he ratchets up the tension, even if his his work with the actors isn't as assured as in his later films. But overall, it's a remarkable and very entertaining debut, with some particularly nasty moments for all the gorehounds out there.

Cypher stars Jeremy Northam as Morgan Sullivan, a very ordinary, even bland, corporate type who is enlisted to act as an industrial spy for a mysterious company by the name of Digicorp. It doesn't take long for Digicorp's leading rival, Sunways, to recognize Sullivan's value and they promptly persuade him to come over to the other side. But then a third party becomes involved and it's in the shape of the very alluring Rita Foster (Lucy Liu, looking great), who it seems has come to disrupt the proceedings. Or has she? What follows is a lot of stuff about cyber security, brain-washing and a general plot with more twists than a pretzel factory. Suffice to say, if you're not paying close attention, you'll miss the rewards this odd film has to offer. To probe in to the machinations of the plot any further would be to give the game away, so I'll now cease and desist.

Natali's second feature was released only in a few countries and then left on the Miramax shelf, later to become a direct-to-video title. Once seen, it's fairly obvious that they had no idea what to do with it. And that's a shame, because this is a work that, whilst borrowing ideas from others, comes off as a slick, clever and absorbing work in its own right. Screenwriter Brian King might be influenced by Phillip K. Dick and ideas presented in films like The Matrix, etc, but he doesn't steal and crafts a plot that's grounded in today's reality, never at once becoming so convoluted that you have no idea of what is going on. Well, providing you're paying very close attention anyway. And that's probably the main reason why it won't appeal to everyone. That, and the fact that there's no flashy action scenes in it. This is a very quiet film, but by the same token, one that still moves at quite a clip. Cypher also has a terrifically futuristic look, gleaming and sharp, with an intentionally cold, colour-drained appearance. This is an under-rated, intelligent little flick that is worth your time, especially if you enjoy the more cerebral kind of science fiction yarn.
Both films are framed at 1:85 and look fantastic as presented on Icon Entertainment's Blu-ray disc. The transfers for each are clean and highly detailed, with amazing colour popping from the walls in Cube, to the cold, steely hues of Cypher.
We get a DTS-HD track for both films, and they each are perfectly rendered. Dialogue is always clear and there's plenty of bottom end action when required. No complaints here.
Extra Features
Absolutely nothing. Not even trailers. But, one can't complain when you're getting two quality genre flicks with excellent A/V quality, all for the price of one.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Many of you reading this have probably seen Cube, but it looks great on this Blu-ray disc. And for those who have yet to see Cypher, it is well worth your time, providing you enjoy a good 'mind-bender'. Both films look and sound fantastic on this Blu-ray, even if they are devoid of supplemental material. For sci-fi fans especially, this Vincent Natali double feature comes recommended.

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