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4.4 out of 5 stars
Cypher  (2 Disc Edition) [DVD] [2003]
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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
Stunning, imaginative visuals highlight this sci-fi thriller, an intricate story of multi-layered brainwashing that is actually better on the second and third viewing, because of its maze of plot twists that one can get lost in, and knowing the ending doesn't lessen the impact of the drama.
The brainwashing scenes are brilliant, where a group attends lectures on subjects like "processed cheese" and "shaving cream distribution", and in paranoid moments makes me wonder what might be really happening to our brains while watching the average news/entertainment + advertising fare on our televisions.
These scenes are a little like the 1962 "The Manchurian Candidate", only using futuristic technology.
Jeremy Northam is terrific as "Morgan Sullivan", whose reality gets distorted and personality split into several identities. His confusion and fear are believable, and he handles the few action sequences with aplomb. Lucy Liu is strong and beautiful as the mysterious Rita, whose coded telephone number is Job 13:17, "Hear diligently my speech, and my declaration with your ears".
Vincenzo Natali directed this award winning film with stylish flair, a sleek sophistication, and with excellent pacing and some heart-thumping tension. The cinematography by Derek Rogers is marvelous, with a rather stark look, and the score is atmospheric and lovely, by Michael Andrews.
Intriguing, well acted, and with fascinating imagery, this is more of a mental adventure than the typical "blow 'em up" action film, and deserves being seen more than once for full appreciation.
No graphic violence, no nudity, and only the occasional four-letter word make this film suitable for a large audience.
Total running time is 95 minutes.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 6 July 2005
Wow what a joy to see a film that did not get hyped out of all proportion and yet is a real gem to watch. The film never pretends to be something that is going to be easy to watch from the word go but the amazing plot and the twists are incredible. The action is great and you never really know what is going to happen next. The film involves one average everyday software computer spy who gets heavier and heavier into stealing secrets from the opposing companies, Norton is perfect in the role as is Lucy Liu, just an all round marvellous film.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2009
I cannot believe he is not a big hollywood hotshot! Vincenzo Natali brought us 'Cube' in 1997 (a film i would definately recommend) and watching this film, i can see him showing off more of his BRILLIANT directing ability. Morgan Sullivan (Northam) is a suburban guy with a miserable marriage and in an attempt to spice things up he signs up as a secret agent for technology giant, digicorp. Things then take a turn for the worse as he makes a discovery about his true purpose, switches sides, switches again, is given a new identity and meets the mysterious Rita (Liu).
This film is excellent and has a feel similar to that of 'The sixth day'. It blends thriller with sci-fi in a world where companies spy on eachother to find out secrets. Acting is top notch from everyone. (Fans of cube might recognise David Hewlett as Virgil Dunn.)
That said, Cypher is not a film for somebody who wants non-stop actin. Go watch 'The Matrix'. The film has quite a bit of story and character development and an ending that kinda suprises you! All special effects are handled proffesionaly and nothing looks out of place, making Cypher look like a high budget blockbuster which i dont think it was.
If you liked 'Cube' then you will probably enjoy more of Natali's work and i would say this is a pretty damn fine movie. It is probably worth getting the rubbish one disc edition if all else fails but really try and snap the two disc one up as it looks extremely cool and has special features such as a commentary track with this inventive and brilliant Canadian director.

The next Natali film will be 'Splice' coming sometime in 2009. Hope all goes well. I know it will.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
I watched this film on the recommendation that it was directed by the same guy who directed "Cube". Yet again he proved that without an enormous budget, or big stars, you can create a great film.
Jeremy Northam was an excellent choice as the lead role. He looks like your average joe and that's exactly how he plays it. It's a stroke a genius to do this as it draws the viewer (a real life average joe) right in and creates a sense of empathy for the main character.
The plot was excellent, incredibly refreshing, and the film had a cool feel - although some of the CGI was a bit naff.
This film is a rollercoaster ride and will keep your interest right up to the credits.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a nice, well thought and well done Sci-Fi thriller directed by Vincenzo Natali, known mainly for his amazing first film, "Cube".

Made in 2000, "Cypher" was Natali's second film. It is a story about industrial espionnage in a not otherwise defined near future. It begins with a middle aged accountant, Morgan Sullivan (Jeremy Northam) who, bored to death with his work and terminally unhappy in his loveless marriage, decides to look for a new, more exciting job. His wish will come true and as the result he will get into an ocean of trouble but also meet the mysterious and beautiful Rita (Lucy Liu)...

The scenario of "Cypher" is pretty clever and mostly makes sense. The solution of all the mystery is well hidden, although (rather unusually for me) I actually managed to figure it out in the middle of the film. The whole sinister and creepy atmosphere of the film is well done and the ending is good - even in a certain way touching...

Of the four films made until now by Vincenzo Natali this is the second best, after "Cube". It is definitely better than the rather disappointing "Nothing" and also better than "Splice" (which was damaged by the idiotic last 10 minutes). If only he manages to find the same level of efficiency in his oncoming "Neuromancer", that can be a film well worth seeing...

Bottom line, this is a honest, above average Sci-Fi B-movie, with some REALLY good twists and an interesting mystery. Enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 January 2015
This is an intelligent and exhilarating SF film which immediately catapults us into the world of corporate espionage. Jeremy Northam is excellent as the mild mannered Morgan Sullivan who applies and succeeds in gaining a position at Digicorp, an advanced technology company. Digicorp assign him a new identity and he is sent to conventions throughout the USA to secretly record presentations. Just as he is beginning to enjoy his new identity Sullivan starts to experience recurring nightmares, and when he meets Lucy Liu's mysterious Rita the film really takes off as she introduces him to a rival company who also wish to hire his services. The dialogue and acting is marvellously restrained, and the cinematography and haunting music is pitched just right. This is a confident and assured piece of work which I highly recommend to watch, definitely more than once.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It's Totally Twisty Time in this excellent movie about full-contact industrial espionage in which dystopian American companies brain-wash, drug, fool and then pop their agents at will. The whole thing is wonderfully played and will keep you guessing for a long time.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 March 2014
Not much of the following is presented overtly to the viewer. It is slowly revealed as the layers peel away..... spoilers...

The great story tells us about a criminal mastermind called Sebastian Rooks who undergoes a personality swap so that he can undertake his latest mission. Sebastian Rooks is a mystery to the outside world, they know of his work but they don't know the man. Rooks is an ultra cool criminal mastermind, he's swuarve and calculating, he has vast resources, he's a yachtsman and a pilot. Rooks is the hero of the show but we rarely get to see his true side.

The above is masked by a complex story which tells us about Morgan Sullivan, the person Rooks morphs into. Sullivan is a mild mannered accountant who is monumentally bored with his bland suburban existence. In the hope of injecting some excitement into his life he applies for a curious job with a company called Digicorps.

The good story tells us about two corporate giants, Digicorps and Sunway; they engage in corporate espionage, each trying to get the upper hand against the other. Digicorps employs Morgan Sullivan, they give him a new identity in the name of Jack Thursby and send him off to secretly gain information on their rival. Sunway then believe they have turned Jack Thursby and have him sending false information to their rival. What neither corporation knows is that their pawn isn't Sullivan or Thursby, it's actually Sebastian Rooks and his plan is to use their rivalry to steal what he actually wants. The good bit is that Rooks doesn't know he's Rooks, he's undergone a personality swap in order to pass the vetting tests and gain employment with Digicorps.

None of the above is presented overtly. Most of the film follows Morgan Sullivan / Jack Thursby as he slowly moves from city to city, attending conferences and sending his reports. Our hero suffers strange flashbacks, cramps and headaches until he's given a serum by a sultry beauty called Rita whom he meets at one of the conferences. The two strike up a relationship and Rita feeds Morgan intriguing information although he doesn't quite trust her as she's miles out of his league. The conferences are masks for brainwashing activty undertaken by Sunway and Digicorps but the serum he's taken allows our hero to beat the effects and stay awake during the process, this takes monumental presence of mind to avoid dectection by the medical staff who silently move between the comatoes deligates sitting quietly in their chairs.

We get a glipmse of Rooks here and there as our hero reveals his true self. He begins to smoke, drinks decent scotch and at one point he enthralls other deligates in bar room chatter about sailing the Pacific. The viewer is led to believe that its just the meek accountant gaining confidence due to drink when in fact its Rooks real personality coming through.

Rita tells our hero that he must steal an item from Sunway. Sunway eventually allow our hero access to their secret vault which is buried deep within the desert. Sunway believe Thursby is still loyal to Digicorp and they hope he will steal a disc which will destroy Digicorp systems when they upload it. Thursby enters the vault and has a fractious engagement with its keeper before taking what he came for and escaping.

The satisfying ending shifts up a gear as our hero crashes between reality and the foreign identity he's imposed upon himself.

I found the music and cinematography particularly appealing as they created a strange dystopian, Gattica like feel to the proceedings. The movie doesn't look cheap but that's more to do with style than CGI. Jeremy Northam exudes huge star quality as the bookish and timid patsy who is seemingly caught between the corporations and some other purpose.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2011
I bought this having stumbled upon it on Amazon, for buttons really from an alternative seller. The reviews here swung it - tks. I was averse to anything labelled ''Matrix spin off'' as that movie did zilch for me personally. Very glad I did buy it. Superb. Northam is a very underplayed nerd cartoon hero, the whole makes a cerebral film that ''refreshed parts Hollywood movies never reach''. OK except for 'Being John Malkovich' and 'Fight club'. Embedded in the cerebral feed is that delightfully addictive visual narcotic called Lucy Liu.
Viva Vincenzo!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2004
superficially this film is a story about espionage and counterespionage. but the plot is hardly the reason one would see this film. it is rather an impressive exercise in style. every shot has an eerie contrived quality to it, from its use of colour--most scenes are nearly monochrome--to the unusual camera angles. the result is disorientating and lends an unreal, often paranoid feel to most scenes. the sound, too, supports the claustrophobic atmosphere. if colour is used at all, it, too, appears artificial and surreal. as the plots develops, the reason behind this style becomes apparent. the audience is as confused as the protagonist, not knowing what and whom to believe, engulfed in a nightmare from which there is little chance of escape. only later in the film, as the protagonist reappoaches "the real world", do the scenes look more naturalistic.
The two main actors work well in this film. especially lucy liu's poker face leaves the audience guessing as to which side she is on, yet there is always a hint that behind her controlled facade there is a depth of feeling, which is explained towards the very end of the film.
whatever one may think of the story line, this film is entirely unique in its style and worth watching, and probably more than once.
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