DIRECTOR Vincenzo Natali WRITER André Bijelic; Vincenzo Natali; Graeme Manson STARS Nicole de Boer; Maurice Dean Wint; David Hewlett DVD & BLU-RAY 15 October
News that the excellent cult favourite Cube was to make it to Blu-ray, 15 years on from dividing critics, certainly excited this writer.
It is just unfortunate that there is little here to justify the touting of this release as an anniversary edition; an interview of less than three-and-a-half minutes with one actor and a short storyboard sequence is frankly rather poor. But Cube itself will always stand up to repeat viewings; Vincenzo Natali’s debut feature holds a beauty in purity that matches the mathematical conundrum its characters find themselves in.
An impactive opener that puts the viewer one step ahead sees a clearly terrified man let himself into a strange, cube-shaped room, only to find himself sliced and quite literally diced by razor wire. We learn no more about this character, immediately taken to five others who meet in a room that is almost identical. No one knows how they got there, everybody having woken up in prison-style boiler suits bearing their names. The room’s six sides all give way to what could feasibly be an infinite number of other cubes should they find themselves going in circles, some of which are booby-trapped. Leaven, a mathematically gifted young female, soon realises that clues lie in numbers identifying the rooms, and the group gingerly attempt to make their way to an exit.
It is a refreshingly simple premise that relies on the psychological interaction of its characters within a very specific scenario, with no messy subplot to detract from the puzzle; there are no pretensions in philosophy here and no answers other than those that may be calculated (some of this is not entirely accurate, which is a pity for mathematical pedants) within the film. Plot twists are presented, but none of these are dramatic; the entire premise relies on the mathematics. Perhaps this may have worn thin over feature-length if not for the addition of an autistic character, a decision that furthers character development and exposes even the seemingly innocent Leaven as a character to be disliked. This plays with the audience’s sympathies, shifting our focus back to the conundrum at hand; an excellent move to re-establish Cube‘s raison d’être, should anyone have felt a distracting kind of empathy.
It is not difficult to understand why some critics panned Cube. To be completely fair, the acting is far from Oscar-worthy, and a story that finishes with no conclusion is often frustrating, particularly when there is no ambiguity for teeth-sinking purposes — this is a film that takes mystery to its very limit. Viewers with scientific sensibilities will however understand that these points are irrelevant in this case. Cube is a rather lovely mathematical equation that is solved.