★★ / ★★★★
Leaven (Nicole de Boer), a math student, Rennes (Wayne Robson), an escape artist, Holloway (Nicky Guadagni), a doctor, Quentin (Maurice Dean Wint), a cop, Worth (David Hewlett), an engineer, and Kazan (Andrew Miller), a mentally handicapped person, wake up in a gigantic cube with no apparent way out. They have no idea who took them and for what reason. The only thing that matters is they must find an escape route because the many rooms within the cube, some equipped with booby traps, have no food or water.
“Cube,” written by André Bijelic, Vincenzo Natali and Graeme Manson, grabbed by interest rather instantaneously because the characters are forced to solve a difficult puzzle while physically being in one. Sadly, it is inconsistent as a whole. Whether it be an actor losing control of her accent in certain scenes or a character experiencing a hundred eighty degree shift in personality or motivation from one minute to the next, it is all too noticeable and oftentimes distracting. With movies that demand its audiences to stay with a group of people in a confined space, it is critical that every detail feels just right. Only then do we really buy into the seeping paranoia and what really is at stake when failure is only inches away.
In some ways, the film is similar to bad horror movies where characters feel the need to argue a whole lot. They make a lot of commotion but for what? To lose energy, perspective and camaraderie. Because they argue so much, I eventually began to feel detached from their task. It is understandable that people start to become unhinged from lack of sleep and sufficient sustenance. Mixed with already normally volatile personalities, trouble is inevitable. It isn’t that their arguments are meaningless. They just feel so unnecessary, mechanical in its approach to buy off a couple of minutes until the next brilliant realization.
When they hit a dead end, the cycle continues. At its worst, one person just wants to kill everybody, which does not make sense because it is proven multiple times that the more people who are alive and well, the faster they tend to get through cryptic clues. Eventually, the freshness of the premise is turns into a case study of mediocrity.
The ending is a big disappointment because it circumvents in answering the necessary questions like who, specifically, is the mastermind of the torture chambers, its purpose (just because it needs to be used is not good enough–a lifeless reason for such an ambitious project), and what is on the outside of the cube.
In the end, I felt like the co-writer and director, Vincenzo Natali, did not know how to solve their own Rubik’s Cube. I admired that the filmmakers did not allow budget constraints to limit what they wanted to say about humanity, or lack thereof, when one finds himself struggling to survive. But the loose ends desperately need satisfying answers so the audiences do not feel cheated by the end of the ordeal.