Worthy of the hype? No, but it's good.
Note: Spoilers throughout; I’m assuming you’ve seen it.
I have somehow managed not to see Cube until now. For whatever reason, certainly not for lack of interest, Vincenzo Natali’s film has eluded me all these years. Garnering a remarkable amount of respect and attention from a variety of audiences, I was excited to finally see the movie that everyone was talking about…even if they were talking about it ten years ago.
Cube is a contradiction of a film. It’s original, yet predictable. It’s stunning, yet unattractive. It’s dramatic, yet laughable. It’s methodical, yet inconsistent. Cube is also a challenging film to make and its problems become all the more apparent because of this.
The concept is brilliant. A group of people wake up, with no memory of how they got there and seemingly no connection between them, inside an incredibly complex cubic structure that is rigged with vicious booby traps throughout. Hmm…kinda’ sounds like another film we know…I think it’s called Saw. Regardless, this setup gives us a diverse collection of characters that are forced to work together, utilizing their different skills to escape the common enemy. Did I just sound like a college admissions counselor? The mystery behind the origin of the cube makes it all the more interesting; is it a government experiment or a madman’s sick game? Later attempts to explain this mystery only leave the audience unfulfilled and destroy the horror behind such ambiguity. With a film like this, it’s best to either go all one way or the other: explain it or don’t. Going in between just leads to strange, rambling dialogue that makes your eyebrows arch.
Aside from these flaws, the film is pretty good. There are not as many “cool” deaths as I expected, but the first two are definitely worth it. The production design and art direction deserve so much credit for this film’s success. Indeed, there would be no movie without the world created by the art department. The complexity coupled with simplicity of the cube makes for compelling visuals that force the audience to look hard at what they are seeing. The cinematography could have stepped up to match this superb visual design. While it does have a distinct style (the use of wide angle lenses, deep focus, and canted angles), the power of shallow depth of field and extreme close-ups would have been appreciated in a film that revolves around character subtleties. The spinning-world effect of the cinematography grows old pretty quickly; I would have liked to see the style evolve with the changing of the characters and their slow decent into madness.
I’d recommend Cube because it’s just one of those films you have to see, but I can’t say that I’ll ever watch it again.