Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ten Statements About....CUBE (1997)

"You do one little job--you build a widget in Saskatoon and the next thing you know it's two miles under the desert, the essential component of a death machine."

1) It's nice to know that no matter how elaborate your story is...the shitty part always comes down to how awful humans are to each other.

2) I love how this script by Andre Bijelic, Vincenzo Natali and Graeme Manson sets up a character, gives him some essential advice to dispense to the others, allows one of the other characters to recognize him as a Legitimately Bad-Ass Guy Essential To Getting Them Out...and then kills him off in a graphic and painful way.

Tell me where this character's loyalties lies...just be prepared
to maybe be wrong....
3) Natali must really admire George Romero, as so many of the character arcs reflect those in the Living Dead films (the ass-hat character who should have been listened to all along; the minority lead guy who ends up dooming almost everyone; etc.).

4) Give a man credit for wisely using his budget--there's maybe two sets in this film total that are made to look like a whole slew of them through lighting and sparing use of special effects.

5) I bet there are some people who will watch this and moan about how we never learn the purpose of the titular Cube...but the Cube is not the point of the film (It's one of the reasons we don't see a lot of the traps). The point is more about how this cross-section of humanity is going to self-destruct given time.

6) The film certainly benefits from using little known actors--the biggest name is arguably David Hewlett, and his fame doesn't come until much later when he is a supporting player in the Stargate franchise--as there's no assumptions on who will live or die. Hell, two of the biggest shocks (a major turn in one character's motivations and a character death) come because we have no assumptions except those we've come to from what we've seen in the story proper.

7) The film does get a little soapbox-y in the second act, as some of the characters start talking like political position papers...but that moment is over relatively shortly.

8) I have to wonder if Natali had some sort of religious metaphor in mind regarding the end, when we find out who is in the 'final person' position, emerging into the overtly-bright-kinda-religious-y white light.

Wanna bet on who survives?  Just be prepared to be wrong...
9) It's interesting how four of the five characters we follow through the film are paired, but not in the way we expect--for example, the references Quentin makes about seeing people like an x-ray throws some reflections on the doctor Holloway.

10) I wonder if the film would have been stronger without the score--most of the time it's fairly subtly handled, but the one moment that transitions between the second and third act, complete with wispy female vocals, manages to briefly break us out of the story.

Overall...this is a very clever little film that manages to get the most bang for its buck. I think aspiring filmmakers might want to give this a look as an example of how to tell a big story very economically.


  1. What did you think of the squeals?

  2. The squeaks,to me, just feed into my point about Natali making the most of his much did it cost to make these vague industrial noises? Next to nothing. How much did it help us believe in the cube's architecture? A whoooooole lot....

  3. God damn spellchecker and not being able to read. I meant to say sequels not squeals.

  4. Haven't seen them...prolly will in the future, since I have this compulsion to see things through to the bitter end...