Theatrical release poster
Directed by Vincenzo Natali Produced by Mehra Meh
Written by André Bijelic
Starring Maurice Dean Wint
Nicole de Boer
Music by Mark Korven Cinematography Derek Rogers Editing by John Sanders Studio Viacom Canada
Ontario Film Development Corporation
The Harold Greenberg Fund
The Feature Film Project
Distributed by Cineplex-Odeon Films
Release date(s) September 9, 1997
January 16, 1998
(Sundance Film Festival)
September 11, 1998
Running time 90 minutes Country Canada Language English
Much of the film's appeal lies in its surreal, Kafkaesque settings; no extensive attempt is made to explain what the cube is that the characters are confined in, why it is created, or how the people were selected to be put inside the cube. Although the world "outside" is referred to, it is presented in an extremely abstract fashion, either a dark void or a bright white light.
Alderson (Julian Richings) wakes up in a cube-shaped room with six hatch doors; one at the center of each wall, one on the ceiling, and one on the floor. He begins to open doors and examine each, to find rooms that differ from the one he is in only by color. Alderson goes into an amber colored room and suddenly gets cut into large cubes. It is then shown that a large metal grate had dropped down and killed him. It then folds up into the ceiling.
In another room, Quentin (Maurice Dean Wint), Worth (David Hewlett), Holloway (Nicky Guadagni), Rennes (Wayne Robson), and Leaven (Nicole deBoer) meet. None of them know where they are, how they got there, or why they are there, so they decide to try to find a way out together. Rennes already knows that some of the rooms contain traps. He initially assumes that the rooms contain motion detectors, so he tests each room by throwing a boot into it before getting in.
As they progress, Leaven notices a series of numbers in the hatchways between the rooms. Soon after, Rennes jumps into a room previously tested with a boot but he is sprayed in the face with acid and is killed. The group decides that the room must have contained an electrochemical sensor that Rennes missed, and realizes that they must find a better way of testing the rooms.
Quentin asks everyone about their backgrounds, and comes to the conclusion that nothing is a coincidence, and each of them has a purpose in the Cube. Leaven reveals herself to excel at mathematics, and after looking at the numbers on a crawl space, she theorizes, using inductive reasoning, that when none of those numbers are prime, the room is safe. Leaven thus makes it her purpose to decipher the Cube's code.
They continue their progress through the Cube, and they eventually find a seventh person, Kazan (Andrew Miller). He is mentally challenged, but Holloway insists that they bring him along.
The group starts speculating about the nature of the place they're in, and conflict arises between Quentin and Holloway. Quentin dismisses Holloway's ideas as conspiracy theories, and Holloway thinks that Quentin is naïve. Soon after this, Quentin enters a room without prime numbers and narrowly avoids death from a trap consisting of rotating razor wires, disproving Leaven's theory. Quentin begins suspecting Worth is a spy, and becomes increasingly irritated by Kazan's mental state. The group rests, while Leaven re-attempts to decipher the numbers.
Quentin tricks Worth into revealing that he is one of the architects of the enormous cube-shaped shell that contains the cube-shaped rooms. When asked about who contracted him to do the job, he states that he doesn't know. Although the others begin to distrust Worth, he gives them information about the dimensions of the outer cube. Leaven then intuits that the numbers between the rooms could be encoded cartesian coordinates representing the position of rooms within the Cube. Based on this theory, the group starts moving trying for the nearest edge.
The group finally reaches one of the ends of the Cube, seen as an endless black void. They conclude that there is a gap between the door and the outer shell. Fashioning a rope out of their clothes, Holloway volunteers to swing out on the rope to investigate. As she is suspended outside the room, the Cube trembles and Holloway nearly falls. Quentin catches her, but then lets her fall to her death, telling the others that she slipped.
The group decides to rest before setting out again, but as they sleep Quentin carries Leaven into another room. He tries to convince Leaven to abandon the others, and makes sexual advances and becomes abusive when she spurns him. Worth and Kazan awaken and save Leaven. Quentin becomes paranoid, revealing his murder of Holloway, and becomes enraged, beating and then throwing Worth through a door in the floor, which contains the dead body of Rennes. At first, they think that they have been going in circles, but then, noticing that the "acid room" that killed Rennes is no longer adjacent to that room, Worth and Leaven realize that the trembling they felt before must have been the rooms moving, and they assume there must be a "bridge room" that connects the Cube to the outer shell. They also find out that rooms that have traps are marked with numbers that are not simply prime numbers, but prime powers, a much larger set of numbers. The prisoners then face the task of performing prime factorizations of three three-digit numbers for every room they enter. Kazan's purpose is revealed at this point; being an autistic savant, he has the ability to perform these factorizations quickly and easily.
They calculate the position where they could meet the bridge room, and they make their way towards it safely with Kazan's help. The exit turns out to be the same room they started in. Anticipating their escape, Worth devises a plan to incapacitate Quentin, who has gone completely mad. Worth fights Quentin into a room below them, where they leave him to die. The bridge room eventually comes, and when they open its door, bright light shines into the room. Worth announces that he will not go, as there is nothing for him in the world outside. As he and Leaven share a moment, Quentin appears and kills Leaven by stabbing her with a door handle. He also fatally stabs Worth before turning to Kazan, who is already climbing out. With the last of his strength, Worth grabs Quentin's leg, and Quentin is crushed in the crawlspace between the cubes when the rooms shift. Having saved Kazan, Worth lies down next to Leaven and dies. Kazan is then seen walking slowly into the bright light.
- Nicole de Boer as Joan Leaven, a girl who has expert mathematical skills that aid the group.
- Maurice Dean Wint as Quentin. He claims to be a police officer and is strong and level-headed. He takes on most of the dangerous tasks and claims to look for "practical solutions".
- David Hewlett as David Worth. He maintains a doomed outlook throughout the first part of the film, and mocks Quentin's attempts at escape.
- Nicky Guadagni as Dr. Helen Holloway, a free clinic doctor. She is shown at the start to be bitter, paranoid, and melodramatic. She spouts conspiracy theories and believes that the government is responsible for the Cube.
- Andrew Miller as Kazan, an autistic man with the ability to rapidly and accurately perform prime number calculations.
- Wayne Robson as Rennes, also known as "The Wren". He first appears to the group as the most knowledgeable of their surroundings, and the reluctant leader. He was an escape artist who escaped from seven major prisons.
- Julian Richings as Alderson, a fellow Cube prisoner who never meets the rest of the group.
All the characters are named after prisons. Quentin is named after San Quentin State Prison in California, Holloway is named after the Holloway Prison in London, Kazan is named after the prison in Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia, Rennes is named after a prison in Rennes, Brittany, France, Alderson is named after the prison in Alderson, West Virginia, and Leaven and Worth are named after the prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.
After writing Cube, Vincenzo Natali developed and filmed a short entitled Elevated. The short was set in an elevator and was intended to give investors an idea of how Cube would hypothetically look and come across. It eventually got the feature financed. Cube was shot on a Toronto soundstage.
Only one cube, measuring 14 by 14 by 14 feet, was actually built, with only one working door that could actually support the weight of the actors. The colour of the room was changed by sliding panels. Since this task was a time-consuming procedure, the movie was not shot in sequence; all shots taking place in rooms of a specific colour were shot one at a time. It was intended that there would be six different colours of rooms to match the recurring theme of six throughout the movie; five sets of gel panels plus pure white. However, the budget did not stretch to the sixth gel panel and so there are only five different room colours in the movie. Another partial cube was made for shots requiring the point of view of standing in one room looking into another.
- The following is the general collective educated induction of Wikipedia editors. It is not a strict report of widespread fan consensus, nor is it based on professional publications evaluating the film. As a result, much theory has been omitted that would otherwise make the section richer. Please help extend it by evaluating the film's math, reviewing and discussing the ongoing issues, and/or adding references to reliable professional sources evaluating the movie.
Natali states in the commentary that a professor was hired to work on the mathematics for Cube, and that one could actually build the structure as it is described in the film. This system is uncovered little by little by the characters who learn to use it to navigate. Leaven plays the greatest role in its induction.
The following "clues" are gradually revealed as the film progresses. The characters realize quickly that the Cube maze consists of interlocking cubical rooms, each with six doors leading to another cubical room, with a narrow passageway connecting the two. Each door is opened manually from inside the room, with no visible mechanism on the other side of the door that is shown briefly as Holloway first enters the scene. It is noted that there are two labels in any given passageway, marking each side of the passageway with a unique nine digit number. Leaven realizes that the "decoded" Cartesian coordinates for the positions of the rooms are obtained by adding together the digits of each three digit number, so that a number "582 434 865" would become "5+8+2 4+3+4 8+6+5" or an x,y,z coordinate of (15,11,19). Worth reveals that the dimensions of the outer shell are "434 feet, square" (i.e. 434 linear feet for each side), and Leaven measures the inside length of one of the rooms by walking as 14 feet to a side and calculates the Cube must consist of 26x26x26 rooms, or 17,576 rooms.
Leaven then theorizes that the trapped rooms factor into the math. She notes that the labels of three of the known trapped rooms contained a prime number, and theorizes that any room containing a prime number is trapped, which holds true for a while. However, a trapped room that does not contain a prime number is later found, and she states that the numbers must be more complex than she thought. Eventually when the group lands back in a room already visited, Worth theorizes that the rooms are actually shifting positions. Leaven expands on her theory into a more complex one and reveals the following inductions to the group:
- The rooms cycle around before returning to their starting positions.
- There is a "bridge", a single room that sometimes connects the maze to the outer shell and provides the only known means of escape.
- The number of each room reveals where the room is, how many times it moves, and where it moves to.
- The traps are identified by numbers that are the power of a prime.
- The permutations by which the rooms move around are calculated by adding and subtracting the digits.
- To figure out which rooms are trapped, she must calculate the factors in each set; rooms with a number that is expressible as the power of a single prime number are trapped.
Leaven concludes that she cannot navigate because the math is too difficult to be done mentally in the time required. Kazan starts giving her the number of prime factors of the three digit numbers, which she uses in combination with her system to navigate their way to the bridge, which leads out of the Cube.
Cube received mixed to positive reviews, earning an approval rating of 59% on Rotten Tomatoes.
- ^ "Canadian Film Centre". Cfccreates.com. http://www.cfccreates.com/our_projects/view_project.php?id=99. Retrieved 2011-02-21.
- ^ "CBC.ca". CBC.ca. 2005-11-15. http://www.cbc.ca/arts/film/darkhours.html. Retrieved 2011-02-21.
- ^ "Sfgate.com". Sfgate.com. 1998-11-20. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1998/11/20/DD100035.DTL. Retrieved 2011-02-21.
- ^ "Biography of Vincenzo Natali". IMDb. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0622112/bio. Retrieved 2011-08-04.
- Cube (film) at the Internet Movie Database
- Cube (film) at AllRovi
- Cube at the Canadian Film Centre website.
Cube film series Films directed by Vincenzo Natali
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