×

Cube

Brilliant set design and smart plotting are let down by pedestrian dialogue in "Cube," an enigmatic sci-fier about ordinary people locked into a giant maze of metal boxes.

With:
Quentin ..... Maurice Dean Wint Leaven ..... Nicole deBoer Holloway ..... Nicky Guadagni Worth ..... David Hewlett Rennes ..... Wayne Robson Kazan ..... Andrew Miller Alderson ..... Julian Richings

Brilliant set design and smart plotting are let down by pedestrian dialogue in “Cube,” an enigmatic sci-fier about ordinary people locked into a giant maze of metal boxes. Concept, and its impressive-looking execution, are strong enough to guarantee low-budget pic — which won a prize in Toronto as best Canadian first feature — a prominent place on vid shelves, if not in theater space.

Pic gets off to a dazzling start, with one unfortunate citizen (Nosferatu-like Julian Richings) waking up in a square metallic cell and, naturally, looking for a way out. He finds one. Unfortunately, the next room is booby-trapped with ingeniously placed razor-wire, and the poor shmoe is literally sliced to bits before he knows what hits him.

Thus is it made abundantly clear how high the stakes are in “Cube,” even before the six other main characters are introduced. With their drab prison uniforms and fogged-out memories, the former civilians — who gradually stumble into one another — have no idea how they got to the place, which seems to be an endless maze of boxy chambers, with most holding deadly (and different) surprises.

The group’s would-be leader is Quentin (Maurice Dean Wint), a cop in “real” life, and just the sort of no-guff guy to tough it out — and to make big mistakes. Challenging him is an equally blunt woman, Dr., Holloway (Nicky Guadagni), an avid conspiracy theorist who figures the Cube is part of some right-wing plot. This is at least partially confirmed by Worth (David Hewlett), a cynical, low-level bureaucrat who recalls working on a tiny portion of the government-funded project. (Whose government this is, is never discussed.)

Then there is Rennes (Wayne Robson), a former crook and escape artist whose skills come in handy. Leaven (Nicole deBoer), a young math student, doesn’t appear to have much to offer the group until they realize that the rooms are numerically coded. Finally, they are joined by Kazan (Andrew Miller), a mentally challenged man whose erratic behavior threatens their survival; of course, he has some (rather predictable) savant-like tricks up his sleeve.

Physically and psychologically, first-time helmer Vincenzo Natali, who scripted with two others, has fashioned a real Rubik’s Cube of a story. Designer Jasna Stefanovic and several f/x crews, working with few resources, have come up with a dazzling array of sharp turns and nasty gewgaws to keep the tale’s futuristic lady-or-the-tiger momentum going.

Too bad none of the characters has anything remotely interesting to say; dialogue is dominated by TV-like palaver that makes “Star Trek” banter sound like Stephen Hawking. Having constructed such an impressive shell, filmmakers seem to have little clue as to what comment they mean to make about society. Cast members are all at least adequate at glaring, sweating and swearing — except for Guadagni, a legit veteran who delivers every line as if she’s sitting on sharpened metal.

These disappointments — not to mention a grim, violent finish — put “Cube’s” theatrical life in doubt. Still, the tech aspects are so accomplished and intriguing, with Mark Korven’s minimalist music repping another bonus, that pic is bound to attract a cult among home-box prisoners.

Popular on Variety

Cube

Canadian

Production: A Trimark release of a Cineplex Odeon presentation of a Cube Libre (Toronto) production, as part of the Feature Film Project, with support from Telefilm Canada, OFDC, Viacom Canada. Produced by Mehra Meh, Betty Orr. Executive producers, Colin Brunton, Justine Whyte. Directed by Vincenzo Natali. Screenplay, Natali, Andre Bijelic, Graeme Manson.

Crew: Camera (color), Derek Rogers; editor, John Sanders; music, Mark Korven; production design, Jasna Stefanovic; art direction, Diana Magnus; sound, Steve McNamee; special effects, CORE Digital Pictures; assistant director, Patrick Tidy.

With: Quentin ..... Maurice Dean Wint Leaven ..... Nicole deBoer Holloway ..... Nicky Guadagni Worth ..... David Hewlett Rennes ..... Wayne Robson Kazan ..... Andrew Miller Alderson ..... Julian Richings

More Film

  • Naomie Harris Shriek

    'Venom 2': Naomie Harris Eyed to Play Villain Shriek Opposite Tom Hardy (EXCLUSIVE)

    Naomie Harris is in talks to play Spider-Man villain Shriek in Sony’s “Venom 2,” with Tom Hardy returning in the title role. Andy Serkis is on board to direct, with Michelle Williams and Woody Harrelson also reprising their roles. The original film was a huge hit for the studio when it premiered in 2018, grossing [...]

  • David Weisman

    David Weisman, 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' Producer, Dies at 77

    David Weisman, who was Oscar-nominated as producer of “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” died Oct. 9 in Los Angeles due to complications from West Nile virus. He was 77. Weisman had a long career as a graphic designer and photographer and co-wrote and co-directed cult classic “Ciao! Manhattan” about 1960s icon Edie Sedgwick. Born in [...]

  • First still from the set of

    Composer Michael Giacchino on Setting the Right Tone for 'Jojo Rabbit'

    Michael Giacchino is a widely respected film composer, with an Oscar and a Grammy for “Up” and an Emmy for “Lost,” as well as a Grammy for “Ratatouille.” He is stirring up Oscar buzz again with his score for Fox Searchlight’s “Jojo Rabbit,” written and directed by Taika Waititi. Giacchino talked with Variety about the [...]

  • Michael Giacchino Film Composer

    How the 'Jojo Rabbit' Production Team Created a Child's View of Nazi Germany

    When picturing Nazi Germany during World War II, most people think of black-and-white or sepia-toned images of drab cities. For the cinematographer and production designer of “Jojo Rabbit,” a film set squarely in that time and place, it became clear that the color palette of the era was far more varied than they could have [...]

  • Robert Duvall (Oberst Kilgore)

    Studiocanal Steps Up its Heritage Game in Germay Via Arthaus Classics

    LYON, France – Continuing its devotion to heritage film in Germany, Studiocanal is bringing classic movies back into cinemas while also releasing newly restored DVD/Blu-ray collections of beloved titles. The leading producer-distributor enjoyed a major hit this summer with the one-day re-release of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now: Final Cut,” which scored 12,000 admissions in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content