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A puzzling Cube of a different sort...
on 19 January 2003
Usually the words 'low-budget horror' evoke images of chainsaw-wielding psychos and teenage kids trapped in isolated houses, with close-up shots of mannequin arms and heads smothered in tomato ketchup. The Cube, however, is a film that dares to buck the trend, and tries to give us a film that has more depth and purpose.
Despite laying out the plot of six people trapped in a giant deadly Rubiks Cube, with very sparse information as to how they got there, who built it, and why, the real pleasure of the film is the 'lab-rat' element of how these people react to each-other and their circumstances as they discover more about their environment.
The acting varies from strong and convincing to hammy and OTT (particularly from the alpha-male Cop). Much has been mentioned about the opening sequence to the film, and I agree that it has the double effect of grabbing the viewer's attention, and establishing one ground rule to surviving the cube (watch out!!)
The story of how these stereotypical misfits (each with an unknown skill that can contribute to their escape) develop and assume roles in the group is fascinating, particularly as the seeds of contempt, paranoia, and despair set in. There are a lot of emotions at play here, and some are brutally stark, like in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Some of the scenes convey menace purely on camera-work alone, and some other well written scenes switch the tension in a heartbeat.
Despite this, the Cube does suffer from poorly-written dialogue. Many times, the writer is conveying credible and valid viewpoints of society, conspiracy-theories, and mathematical conundrums, yet some of the lines, delivered at the worst times by the worst actors ruins the whole effect of the film. In addition, the ending was so bad that I felt cheated, firstly by its implausability, and secondly, because it was badly handled, being just an excuse to 'wrap it up and ship it out'. I'd strongly recommend that anyone who watches Cube for the first time switch off the DVD about 5 minutes towards the end, and make up their own ending in order to get their full money's worth, as the only thing they'll remember was how bad the ending was, and not so much how thrilling and intriguing the film was.