‘Cube’ (1997) Review
Seven people wake up in a cube with no recollection of the journey there, wearing identical gender-neutral clothing. The cube comprises several smaller interlocking cubes. Person number one who is alone, meets a particularly ghastly end quite early on and the focus moves to the others, who have only just met.
The architecture of the cube and the uniform nature of the captives’ attire possibly owe something to Star Trek’s ‘Borg’, but whereas the inhabitants of the latter think collectively, our six protagonists polarise this phenomenon and think as the six disparate personalities that they are. Apparent entrapment within the cube is merely the exposition; the problem lies in how they will survive seemingly random booby traps until they escape.
Conflict and Utilitarianism
Quentin (Maurice Dean Wint) takes on the mantle of alpha male but finds himself outsmarted by the two women: Leaven (Nicole de Boer) and Holloway (Nicky Guadagni). The former: a young, conventionally pretty but unassuming geek, is tolerated by him, as she seems useful. The latter: an older, not so alluring doctor, is barely tolerated by him as she questions his Borg-like utilitarianism, seeming to suggest that it is a cover for a wholly contradictory moral code.
Modern Spin on a Familiar Theme
The premise of a group of people forced together in a dangerous situation is not uncommon. Since Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ (1945), we have been treated to ‘Lord of the Flies’ (1954), ‘Alive’ (1993) and in more recent times, thrillers such as ‘Nine Dead’, ‘Saw II’, ‘Devil’ and ‘Would you Rather?’ Most are contrived situations but some - ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Alive’ - are accidental.
Director Vincenzo Natali’s choice of entrapment as the main theme means guaranteed tension. The added dystopian dimension of some great authority engineering the situation is discomfiting, as are the sterile surroundings, contrasting with the range of emotions on display. The characters’ diverse personalities are established swiftly and therefore there is friction from the outset. The speed with which this happens is theatrical, in keeping with the film as a whole; bright lighting and crisp, clean sets are characteristic of ‘Cube’ and the nature of the situation ordains that you cannot look forward to any nail-biting scenes where main characters find themselves alone and shrouded in darkness. However, the lack of scope for atmospheric lighting changes is offset by the disturbing plot. A sense of claustrophobia is a risk in films of this type, yet this is prevented by the group’s journey through the cube. The mystery surrounding the whole situation is compounded by the unknown entity of every inner cube. Will there be a trap? How can they protect themselves?
But as the film progresses, you wonder if the traps are the greatest threat after all.