Trimark // 1997 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 11th, 2001
Don't look for a reason...look for a way out.
Winner at the Toronto International Film Festival, Cube cost only a quarter of a million dollars to make, was shot in only three weeks, and had only one and half sets. It has since then gained a cult following as an intelligent and tense thriller about fear, entrapment and paranoia in the tradition of "The Twilight Zone." Trimark has released this independent winner on DVD in widescreen with a few supplements to "boot" (you'll get the "boot" joke when you see the film).
Six strangers awake separately inside of a large square rooms. No one knows how they got there. No one knows where they are. This is the premise of Cube.
The six people slowly start to look around to see where they are, and begin coming together. They are a hodgepodge of personalities, including a policeman, Quentin (Maurice Dean Wint), a psychiatrist, Halloway (Nicky Gaudagni), an autistic man, Kazan (Andrew Miller), a math student, Leaven (Nicole de Bour), an engineer, Worth (David Hewlitt), and an ex-con, Wennes (Wayne Robbson). There is no rhyme or reason why they have been chosen. They have no food, no water. There are no washrooms, no furniture. The rooms they are in are just cubes, with one door on each wall. They know nothing else.
Time is running out. If they want to survive they need to work together to escape. But things won't be that easy. Certain rooms are equipped with traps. Some have flamethrowers, others knives. One even has a grotesque dicing system that the audience will experience first hand. Now the question is how to these six people find a way out of something that is constantly moving and is one, big deathtrap?
I have been purposefully cryptic while explaining the plotline of Cube. There are few movies I have seen where I have been absolutely riveted to what is happening on-screen. I can remember seeing the Michael Douglas film The Game and being riveted from start to finish, walking out thinking it had been one of the best movie experiences of my life. I felt the same tingle when I saw Cube for the first time. To give away major plot points to this film would be doing a disservice.
The story is really quite basic. Take a few people, throw them in a dangerous situation, and see what happens. Like the best of "The Twilight Zone" series, this is a feeding frenzy of paranoia and desperation. I could almost imagine that if Hitchcock were still alive, he'd have been genuinely impressed with the script and tension. At points it was sometimes hard for me to follow exactly what was going on with the math aspect of the film (yes, there's a math aspect, and yes, there will be a test afterwards). I was an English kind of guy in school, so there were spots when I had that look of catatonia when characters starting spouting numbers. Otherwise, it's a pretty easy film to follow that takes the road NEVER traveled.
This is an ensemble piece, with no clear cut star or lead. The character of Quentin takes a leadership role, but as the film progresses we start to wonder if he really can be trusted to lead the group, if even help the group find a way out. As played by Maurice Dean Wint, Quentin is an imposing man who seems eager to help out, then starts to show a darker side. Exceptional is David Hewlitt as Worth, the comedic relief of the film. He knows more about the cube than anyone, but not enough to get them out on his own. Only through teamwork and determination will these people have a fighting chance of getting out...alive.
The other cast members do a fine job, though at times the amateurish Nicole de Bour's character Leaven got a bit grating. I was impressed with the fact that the entire movie takes place on only two sets. The filmmakers were able to revolve an entire two hour story around two sets, using lighting and staging to make it feel like this is hundred of different rooms. I applaud them on their efforts, as the sets work beautifully.
Cube is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and looks good. Not great, just good. Blacks were solid and colors were generally bright with only the slightest amount of muting. There is a small bit of jumping during some of the credits, but otherwise the picture looks fine. Audio (Dolby Digital 2.0) is also decent, with dialogue and effects mixed well. This is a dialogue driven film, so for that aspect the mix is fine.
Extras for a film like Cube are usually nil to none, but Trimark has done a nice job at adding a few bonus items for us Cube fans. First off is an audio commentary track with actor David Hewlitt, co-writer/director Vincenzo Natali, and co-writer Andrea Bijelic. As usual, I'm of the opinion that commentary tracks fare better when done with multiple people (for any doubts, see my review of the commentary track for the film Bloody Murder). Cube is no exception. The track is informative (did you know the actor in the opening shot is not really bald? Fascinating!) and entertaining, with the three men making some jokes and laughing along the way. A fun listen, but only when you have already seen the film. Make sure you see the film before you do the commentary or I will come over to your house and beat you with your shoe.
Next up are a few deleted widescreen scenes that include the director's commentary as well. The scenes are interesting as a whole, but the quality is very, very poor for viewing. The images are grainy (almost like watching it though a surveillance camera) and include time code on the bottom of the screen. For the sole reason of giving nothing away, I won't comment on what the deleted scene are of (though I can say that there is a reason why they were deleted, and you'll know when you see them).
The storyboards section is a fun little extra. There you can take a look at the storyboarding process, and if you wish you can watch the film simultaneously as you watch the storyboards to see how they match up (which is pretty close). Also included is a production art section where you can take a look at different stills of artwork from Cube, such as the design of the cubes, costumes and trap designs are in display for your enjoyment.
And, as usual, there's the ol' standby, the trailer. The trailer for Cube is presented in a full frame version and is very well done for a film that was inexplicably pretty much sent to video. As a bonus, Trimark has added a few extra trailers (click on the Trimark symbol in the right hand corner of the main menu). Wes Craven Presents: Carnival Of Souls, The Curve, and Slam are all there for you straight-to-video fans to drool over (don't worry, you're all my kind of people).
As stated, there were times when it was tough to know what was going on when they brought up the math aspect of the film. I am no bonehead, but when it comes to mathematics, I'm about as clueless as Keanu Reeves at a Francois Truffaut film. If you are a smarty-pants or played with calculators instead of action figures when you were a kid, then you'll do just fine with this movie. Otherwise, you can join me in the dark as I scratch my head, Neanderthal-like.
The transfer on Cube also could have used a little cleaning up as well. The picture is okay, but it seems as if it could have been much better. Though for a small film made for a very low budget, I guess we can't complain too much.
For around $24.99-$29-99 Cube a bit pricey, but true fans will want this disc in their collection. If you haven't seen Cube yet, rent it at your local video chain and see what you think. It won't be on everyone's top ten list, but I had a great time watching this intricately written thriller.
Free to go...or is it? Can it find it's way out? Or is Cube trapped in the cube? Life imitating art? Or art imitating life? Has this whole thing annoyed you yet?
Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary Track
* Comparative and Alternate Storyboards
* Deleted Scenes
* Production and Set Design
* Special F/X Artwork