On Sci-Fi Movies: Cube

July 21, 2018

Last night I watched the Canadian cult sci-fi/horror film Cube for the first time. I had heard a bit about this movie, and became more interested in watching it earlier this month after seeing the the Twilight Zone episode it was inspired by. I decided to do a quick review of sorts on it, so here it is.

As I mentioned in my first film review, I intend to discuss the plot and details of the movie extensively below. I reccommend you don't read on unless you want [SPOILERS].

Cube is a bizzare tale about a group of strangers trapped in a huge industrial structure that consists entirely of colored, cube-shaped rooms, some of which are trapped, each with a porthole on every side that leads to another cube-shaped room. There is no obvious exit from the structure, and the strangers quickly learn they are in grave danger when one of them is killed by a trap. Quentin (Maurice Dean Wint), a police officer, takes charge of the group, but tensions start to rise. The group notices that there are numbers in the portholes between the cubes. Leaven (Nicole de Boer), a young college student, notices what she believes is a pattern in these numbers: the ones that are prime point to trapped rooms, and the ones that aren't prime are safe. This tell seems to work, and the group makes their way through the rooms, even finding another survivor, a mentally challengened man named Kazan (Andrew Miller). However, when Quentin steps into one of the supposedly safe rooms, a trap triggers and he is mildly injured before he escapes back to the previous room. An argument breaks out, during which Quentin angrily provokes the cynical, unhelpful Worth (David Hewlett) into revealing that he harbors secret knowledge about the structure: it was designed by him and built by an unknown organization, and its purpose is forgotten and irrelevant. The group has been imprisoned simply because the structure needed occupants to seem useful. The others, shaken by this revelation, try once again to escape. Based on Worth's description of the design, Leaven is able to calculate where the edge would be. Going on the new assumption that the numbers between rooms are coordinates, the group makes their way to the edge of the structure, only to discover that every cube one off from the edge is trapped. The group attempts to navigate through a room with a sound-activated trap. Everyone but Quentin makes it through, but Kazan makes a sound while Quentin is traversing the trap, nearly getting Quentin killed. Once he is in the other room, Quentin attacks Kazan, and a major fight breaks out amongst the group. They finally reach the edge, only to find that there is an enormous chasm seperating them from the wall around the structure. The group decides that Halloway (Nicky Guadagni), the doctor, will be sent out on a rope made of the group members' jackets to try and find an escape. While she is out on the rope, the structure shakes as if hit by an earthquake, and Halloway falls. Though Quentin has an opportunity to save her, he cruelly lets her fall to her death and pretends to the rest of the group that it was an accident. After a brief rest, another fight breaks out when Worth attempts to stop Quentin from sexually assaulting Leaven. After Worth is beaten to a pulp and dropped through a hatch in the floor, the group discovers the body of the first of them to die, and realizes that they have been going in circles. The group then realizes that the earthquakes they have felt are the cubes moving around in the structure, and that powers of primes, rather that primes, mark the trapped rooms. Kazan turns out to be a savant who can rapidly do prime factorizations, and, with his help, the group begins making their way to the cube that they have deduced will eventually line up with the exit from the structure. While they are making their way to this "bridge", Worth ambushes Quentin, injuring him and leaving him behind. The remaining three, Leaven, Kazan, and Worth, arrive at the exit, and Kazan opens it, revealing a bright light. Worth, demoralized, does not want to return to civilation. While trying to convince him to come with them, Leaven is killed by Quentin, who has returned for revenge. He subdues Worth, and turns his attention to Kazan and the escape. When he is half-way through the exit, however, Worth grabs his leg, trapping him there as the bridge moves, killing him. With both Quentin and Leaven dead, Worth succumbs to his injuries while Kazan ventures into the mysterious light, alone.

Cube is a peculiar movie. On the one hand, there are serious defficiencies in the acting and dialog that can wear on the viewer. On the other, the concept is excellent and unique, the setting is great, the directing is spot-on, and there are moments of true brilliance in the story. The characters are multi-faceted people, and the stress that they are under drives them to behave in often less-than-human ways. The character of Quentin in particular sort of encapsulates the movie: he is acted with a mixture of extreme hamminess and threatening intensity. The acting in a way sometimes works to make the characters seem more unhinged. Sometimes, though, there are surprisingly powerful moments. Worth's speech about the nature of the structure and the ultimate pointlessness of it is great, perhaps a high point of the whole film.

All told, I enjoyed Cube. I am often bored with sci-fi as it exists now. I long ago lost interest in Star Wars, and other than the original series, The Next Generation, and some of Voyager, I have little interest in Star Trek. The wonder of sci-fi stems from the application of real-world science to a world where anything could happen. It is about constraint, and outlandish action films and/or television series that treat the science as a sort of magic are to me totally missing the point of sci-fi. Does this mean I only partake in hard SF, like a purist? No, it only means that I have little use for rebranded fantasy action schlock that is not smart enough to apply real-world science to its narrative before branding itself "science fiction". Cube, to me, is great because it knows its constraints: it is sci-fi only insofar as a sadistic, state-of-the-art prison is sci-fi. It is a thriller mostly, and it knows that. Whatever its failings, its a good movie, and I put it up there with my other sci-fi favorites like Coherence and Primer.

So there you have it. I like this style of leaving reviews about movies I have just watched here. I will do it again I am sure. Thank you for reading!