Cube (1997) — Like rats in a death maze…

“It’s a headless blunder operating under the illusion of a master plan”

Justin’s rating: I’ll just sit over here, you sit over there, and we’ll put the TV in the middle.

Justin’s review: Cube is best likened to one of those old Twilight Zone episodes that didn’t ever need much of an explanation in order to create a tripped-out world that would make you think long, long after the show was over. Despite several characters who will seriously make you consider taking up bounty hunting as a hobby, Cube remains a mind-twister that you can’t help mulling over long after the credits roll.

No setup, no explanations, just BAM! Several strangers wake up in a foreign environment, rudely yanked from their normal lives. Where are they? Who put them here? What is the purpose? These things are never answered, at least not directly, but all we need to know is that the characters are suddenly in mortal peril. Trapped in confining multi-colored cubes with exits on all sides, this band of cardboard stereotypes must dodge deadly traps and recall math classes in order to escape.

Watching this, I was reminded of a visit I made as a kid to the Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio. For some reason, they had a display in the POW section of this hugely elaborate mousetrap that some prisoners built out of tin cans and other bits and pieces. It was basically a hallway leading to different rooms, and all except one had some sort of fatal trap (rat poison, spikes, razor blades). They’d let the mouse roam inside it, and if the mouse chose the correct exit, they’d let it go free. Morbid and twisted? Yes. Oddly fascinating, too? Oh, definitely.

Cube’s environment gets claustrophobic and oppressive very quickly, and it doesn’t help that all of the characters go from a team to backstabbing in mere minutes. Now, I’ve never been trapped with others in a life-or-death situation like this, but I’d hope I might hold myself together a little longer than these people, who just kept arguing and sniping at each other until you just wish they’d all find the room that was set to “deep fry.” There’s a cop who goes from a respectable commander to a raving maniac; a cute nerd (with prerequisite glasses) who is borderline terrified; the laconic wit with a secret or two up his sleeve; the escape artist who dies way too early on, despite being a pretty cool character; and the constantly screeching/moaning mentally challenged guy who’s the key to the whole thing.

And no one deserves death in this film more than the doctor, a lady who’s not only clueless and annoying, but very loud when doing these things. Cube is at its most interesting when it’s stripped down to the bare essentials: death and survival. Yet the doctor feels this irrepressible urge to constantly go on long paranoid rants about the government, military, existentialism, McDonald’s abuse of chicken parts, and what have you. The general thought I had with her on screen was that if I was one of the other characters, I’d be thinking “I don’t mind dying, as long as I don’t have to go to my death listening to her nonstop mouth.”

Come to think of it, that’s the same for The Blair Witch Project too.

While you and I are destined to be disappointed with the lack of answers and clear resolution, Cube boasts some original ideas that make for great (and pointless) speculation. All the wishing in the world for better acting or discussions won’t make the lame points better, but at least we have something vastly different for a Saturday night’s fare.

Kyle’s rating: Garbage cubed.

Kyle’s review: I love sci-fi. In every fantasy world I retreat to from reality, each and every one involves either a space ship or an alien probe session (don’t ask about that last one!). That should illustrate how much I love sci-fi, if it didn’t just take my word for it. Cube is a sci-fi movie. It deals with six people mysteriously imprisoned in a futuristic ingenious trap-filled cube of cubes they must somehow escape by solving some sort of puzzle mystery.

The set-up is neat. Just think about what could have been done with that set-up, then go watch some other sci-fi movie. Because Cube isn’t that great. The characters they picked are icky, and I can guarantee the ones you like aren’t going to end their lives happily. I’m not sure you will even like any of the characters, so I guess you may enjoy rooting for none of them to make it out of the cube.

I found Cube boring, upsetting and not satisfying. It’s worth watching if it’s on cable for free (in a manner of speaking) but if you are considering renting it make sure you’re in an unassailable good mood, or else you’ll be dragged down into the very dark depths of self-loathing for subjecting yourself to the depressing antics of Cube. But if you absolutely HAVE to watch Cube (due to bad karma or it’s the only movie you can find on any channel) just be sure to balance out the experience with a healthy dose of Sesame Street or Reading Rainbow. Something nice and pink like that.

Andie’s rating: It’s astronomical!!!!

Andie’s review: Personally, I thought this movie was fantastic! It was original, thought-provoking, and it didn’t end the way I thought it would, which was refreshing. Everyone I’ve recommended this to liked it as well, but I think it takes a certain type of person to enjoy it. A lot of people just won’t get it.

It’s the story of seven people who wake up in 14-foot-squared connecting rooms with have no idea how they got there or how to get out.

It’s an exploration of human behavior as their common sense starts to unravel and desperate primitive instincts to protect oneself take over. I liked the way the characters interact with each other and I just liked the overall concept of the movie. I give kudos to the independent filmmakes who pulled this off and I’d like to see more movies like it, if they exist.

DnaError’s rating: Mind space cubed.

DnaError’s review: Cube is not so much a sci-fi movie as it is a philosophical construct. It’s the kind of movie where you can end up talking for hours afterwards, picking apart sentences and camera angles. Or maybe that’s just me and my freaky friends.

Anyway, Cube’s basic setup could be sci-fi, but it’s also the kind of thought experiment favored by philosophers when trying to prove a point. The “imagine a box…” school of argument lets you create an extreme situation, then toss in a bunch of stand ins and see who comes out kicking.

The point Cube wants to make is that only careful deduction and cooperation can make progress, but in the end that progress is useless against “endless human stupidity.” Or, maybe I’m infamously reading too much into the text again, but all the talk about “there has to be a plan” and “controllers” seems an awful lot like a discussion of free will vs. predestination. An Enlightenment-era argument on who has more power, the will of man, or the will of God? Or rather, if the maze is purposeless, then why bother trying to escape? Is the purpose an illusion? If so, is that illusion needed to survive? Heavy nihilism territory there, and the movie fits of modern philosophy seem apropos.

However, the movie is fuzzy on the end, and the argument isn’t as well developed as I would like. This isn’t an analysis site, so I’ll spare you the boring details. On the other hand, a straight allegory would be dull, and it gets heavy handed enough that you can see the screenwriter labeling the characters in his notebook. (“The idealist,” “the cynic” “the rationalist” “the innocent.”)

Cube reminded me most of Harlan Ellison’s short story “I have no mouth, yet I must scream.” Strangers trapped in a hellish maze with seemingly no end, driven only by hunger and hatred. While Cube ends on a happier note (not by much) they share the same sweaty, terrifying bluntness with terror, desperation, and paranoia.

Didja notice?

  • Cube traps include: a near-invisible wireframe that slices a body into small segments, a flamethrower, an acid spray, a twisty-wireframe slicer, and hundreds of spikes
  • All of the characters are named after prisons: Quentin (San Quentin, California), Holloway (England), Kazan (Russia), Rennes (France), Alderson (Alderson, West Virginia), Leaven and Worth (Leavenworth, Kansas).
  • Check out the tension level for the quiet soundtrap room scene!
  • The Stephen King Cast List Rule: If you have one character who’s young, weak, physically or mentally deformed, then chances are spectacular that they hold the key, special power or ability to eventually save the day
  • The “uniforms” everyone wakes up in includes (1) outfits with their names sewn on, (2) military boots, and (3) boxers/white tee undies
  • Prime numbers? Primes of primes? Has anyone other than mathematicians even USED prime numbers outside of the 6th grade?

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