Cube came highly recommended by friends of mine. It had interested me in the past, I had just never gotten around to watching it. So I pulled it up on Netflix and had it sent out. Needless to say I was pretty excited when I finally sat down with what was looking to be a pretty good show. What followed, unfortunately, didn’t exactly live up to expectations.
The story, at it’s most basic level, is probably the movie’s finest point. It is really about a group of random people who are trapped in a big maze full of booby traps. As the story progresses, the maze turns out to be a sequence of cubes, arranged in a giant cube, in which people are put for no real reason. The cube was built by a collection of random people following a headless directive, thus making it the world’s biggest study in follow the leader. The finer points of this plot are brought to you by the conspiracy theorist “doctor” and the corporate lemming. think the concept of a group of massive construction project being built and designed by separate, autonomous units with no direct oversight was pretty neat, but leave it at that. Don’t go into this conspiracy crap about how it’s all the government or some big corporation. It’s a cube, it was built by a bunch of random people, and people are being put in it for no reason. Cool concept, I just don’t want to hear someone preaching about it.
As with any claustrophobic movie (Saw, 127 Hours, Frozen, etc), this is really about the characters. I am a big fan of strong characters; a solid central cast can make even the worst story bearable. Of course, then you have to have the actors to back up the part, but that’s another issue entirely. Back to my point, “Cube” really under delivered in the character department. Sure, they had back stories and were multi-dimensional, but I didn’t feel for any of them. The coolest guy was the escape artist, who isn’t exactly what I’d call a main character. The doctor was obnoxious and the engineer was a loser. The student was fine, but there was nothing interesting about her; she was just good at math. The cop was interesting, but I found his 180 personality swing to be too much. I think the point the author was trying to make was that the family values-preaching public servant was really even crazier than the establishment doubting people around him, and I don’t really feel for that. Then you’ve got the… “mentally handicapped” guy. I assume he was autistic, as he was a numbers whiz. Whatever the case, I think this was included to pull at the sentimental folks and bring some legitimacy to the movie. I guess I just don’t like using retarded people as a plot point. It seems like exploitation, which is why I’ve never liked Forrest Gump. In the end, the characterization in the script was actually very good, I just couldn’t connect with any of the characters. As a viewer, you can see bits of each personality in your own, but, at least for me, I didn’t see enough of any of them for the sense of urgency or dread to really sink in. I was rooting for them all to go via cool booby traps like the acid spray.
In terms of gore, “Cube” made it’s point. Within 5 minutes we’ve seen a guy get cubed like stew beef. The first character to go gets a vat of acid chucked into his face, and we get to watch it melt in stunning, non-CGI glory. The rest of the violence can be summed up to stabs and cuts, of which the piece de resistance is a guy having a door handle jammed through his body. It’s no splatterfest, but it delivers.
Acting wise, the performances are hit or miss. Some of the more boring parts are played with a high level of realism, but then when we get to a scene full of emotion, the director goes into full camp mode and the film seems goofy. Most of the actors play their characters spot on; only problem, as I’ve stated before, is that I don’t like the characters. With the exception of the doctor’s lines, the dialogue is pretty good and believable. The actors convey it well at points, but at other points it feels like a script reading. Oddly enough, the technical dialogue, all the crap about prime numbers and coordinates, is played with a gusto that makes me feel like I’m back in freshman Calculus. Usually that is the part that falls below grade in movies like this.
Since I’ve brought up the mathematical aspect of the story, let’s delve a little deeper. I think that adding puzzles into movies, especially puzzles the viewer can solve, can really add to the intricacy and interactiveness of the script. When you watch a mystery, you see the clues unfold on the screen and you can put them together yourself. People really enjoy that, which is why there is such a huge market for cop and lawyer shows. I believe “Cube” was intended to be a very cerebral movie, but it only struck gold in half it’s endeavour. Your mind really starts churning for the characters and their emotional states, their decisions of self sacrifice and self preservation. Phase two is a math game, which effectively walks in, shows off it’s goods and then runs away before you can make heads or tails of what happened. Here’s the set up: Each room is a cube, with an exit on each of it’s six sides. Each exit has a set of three, three digit numbers on it. At first you think this is a serial number. Then you discover that there is a pattern. If the numbers are prime, the room is safe. Then, BAM!, surprise twist. This isn’t true. How could the Cube just abandon it’s old pattern? We discover, through the retard, something about factors of prime numbers. This is where I got lost. At the risk of sounding like an idiot, I’m pretty sure all factors of a number are prime. Maybe the rule was that the number had to have a prime number of factors. Either way, we don’t see the numbers enough to make this decision ourselves. I’m not going to pause the movie and do math problems, but I would like to be able to follow the puzzles on screen.
Overall, “Cube” was a let down. Maybe it was too hyped up, but I felt like I was robbed of what could have been a good time. It definitely has it’s merits as a thought provoking puzzle movie, and one of the first of it’s kind, and the story concept was original and interesting. It lacked in areas stumbled a bit in areas like acting and set design (every room is exactly the same…) but most importantly failed to make me care. In order to like this movie, you have to like the characters, and I couldn’t bring myself to that. To make comparisons a little easier, and to be quick and dirty about what I’m getting you into, I’ve created a new rating system. Each rating is out of 10. Here you go: