Cypher (film)

Cypher (film)

Promotional movie poster
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Produced by Paul Federbush
Wendy Grean
Casey La Scala
Hunt Lowry
Written by Brian King
Starring Jeremy Northam
Lucy Liu
Nigel Bennett
Timothy Webber
Music by Michael Andrews
Cinematography Derek Rogers
Editing by Bert Kish
Studio Miramax Films
Release date(s) August 2, 2002 (2002-08-02)
Running time 95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $7.5 million[1]

Cypher (also known as Brainstorm), is a 2002 science fiction thriller film starring Jeremy Northam and Lucy Liu. The film was written by Brian King and directed by Vincenzo Natali. The film was shown in limited release in theaters in the USA, and released on DVD on August 2nd 2005.



Morgan Sullivan, a recently unemployed accountant, is bored with his suburban life. Pressured by his wife to take a job with her father's company, he instead pursues a role in corporate espionage. Digicorp's Head of Security, Finster, inducts Morgan, and assigns him a new identity. As Jack Thursby, he is sent to conventions to secretly record presentations and transmit them to headquarters. Sullivan is soon haunted by recurring nightmares and neck pain. When he meets Rita Foster from a competing corporation, his life starts to become complicated.

Rita gives him pills to cure his pain and nightmares, and tells him not to transmit at the next convention. After the convention, Digicorp confirms the receipt of his transmission, though Morgan sent nothing. Sure that something strange is going on, Morgan takes the pills Rita gave him. They work. Confused by what is going on, and intrigued by Rita, he arranges to meet with her again.

Jeremy Northam as Morgan Sullivan

Rita advises Morgan of Digicorp's deception, and invites him to accept the antidote — a big syringe of green liquid. Morgan hesitantly accepts. She warns him that no matter what happens at the next convention he must not react.

Morgan discovers that all the convention attendees are spies like him, and all thinking themselves individual spies working for Digicorp. While they are drugged from the served drinks, plastic-clad scientists probe, inject and brainwash them. Individual headsets reinforce their new identities, preparing them to be used, and then disposed of.

Morgan manages to convince Digicorp that he believes his new identity. He is then recruited by Sunway Systems, a rival of Digicorp. Sunway's Head of Security, Callaway, encourages Morgan to act as a double agent, feeding corrupted data to Digicorp.

Morgan calls Rita, who warns him that Sunway are equally ruthless, and that he is in fact being used by Rita's boss, Sebastian Rooks. Morgan manages to steal the required information from Sunway Systems' vault, escaping with Rita's help.

Rita ultimately takes him to meet Rooks. When she temporarily leaves the room, a nervous Morgan calls Finster, and becomes even more distressed. He accidentally shoots Rita, who encourages him to ignore her and meet Rooks in the room next door. Morgan finds the room filled with objects which appear to be personal to him, including a photograph of him and Rita together. Realising that he is apparently Rooks, he turns to Rita in disbelief.

Before Rita can convince him, the apartment is invaded by armed men. Rita and Morgan escape to the roof of the skyscraper as the security teams of Digicorp and Sunway meet, led by Finster and Callaway. After a short Mexican standoff, both sides realise they are after the same person, Sebastian Rooks, and rush to the roof.

Morgan and Rita are on the roof in the helicopter — Rita is unable to fly it, but Sebastian can. Rita encourages Morgan to remember his past self, connecting through his love for her. He suddenly remembers, and lifts off amid gunfire from the security teams. Finster and Callaway comment as the couple seem to have escaped:

Callaway: "Did you get a look at him? Did you see Rooks' face?"
Finster: "Just Morgan Sullivan, our pawn."

Looking up, they see the helicopter hovering above and realise, too late, the true identity of Morgan Sullivan. Sebastian triggers a bomb, causing the whole roof to explode.

On a boat in South Pacific Ocean, Sebastian reveals the content of the stolen disc to Rita. Marked "terminate with extreme prejudice", it is the last copy of Rita's identity (after the one in the vault was destroyed). Sebastian throws the disc into the sea, and the film closes: "Now there's no copy at all."


  • Jeremy Northam as Morgan Sullivan / Jack Thursby / Sebastian Rooks
  • Lucy Liu as Rita Foster
  • Nigel Bennett as Finster
  • Timothy Webber as Callaway
  • David Hewlett as Virgil Dunn
  • Kari Matchett as Diane Thursby
  • Kristina Nicoll as Amy Sullivan
  • Joseph Scoren as Digicorp Technician #1
  • Stephen Brown as Digicorp Technician #2
  • Arnold Pinnock as Pilot In Mensroom
  • Jocelyn Snowdon as Stewardess to Buffalo
  • Boyd Banks as Fred Garfield
  • Steve Jackson as Waiter Buffalo
  • Dan Duran as Buffalo Speaker #1
  • Valerie Buhagiar as Buffalo Speaker #2
  • Roberta Angelica as Stewardess to Omaha
  • George Santino as Rita's Agent #1
  • Nelson Tynes as Rita's Agent #2
  • Denis Akiyama as Speaker Omaha
  • Vickie Papavs as Desk Clerk Boise
  • Murray Furrow as Hotel Janitor Boise
  • Scott McLaren as Convention Waiter Boise
  • David Bolt as Speaker #1 Boise
  • Len Carlson as Speaker #2 Boise
  • Les Porter as Man In White Coat Boise
  • Bruce McFee as Businessman Boise
  • Judy Sinclair as Elderly Woman In Elevator
  • Shanly Trinidad as Gate 15 Clerk Boise
  • Anne Marie Scheffler as Stewardess Boise
  • Mike O'Shea as Sunways Security Guard
  • Andrew Moodie as Sunways Neuro Technician
  • Malcolm Xerxes as Sunways Technician #1
  • Matthew Sharp as Sunways Technician #2
  • Peter Mensah as Vault Security
  • David Bryant as Pilot #2 In Washroom
  • Alec Stockwell as Digicorp Technician #2
  • Matt Cooke as Digicorp Technician #3
  • Marcus Hutchings as Jamison


The film received mixed to positive reviews. Derek Elley of Variety called the film "consistently intriguing" and "100% plot driven" with excellent performances from the cast,[2] while Paul Byrnes of the Sydney Morning Herald found that the plot overwhelmed the characters so much that he "stopped caring."[3] As of 2010 at Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 59% critic rating average from 17 reviews, and 69% from 1600 members of the RT community.[4]


  1. ^ Cypher - Box Office/Business IMDB
  2. ^ Elley, Derek (July 23, 2003). Cypher review. Variety. Retrieved 2010-07-25.
  3. ^ Byrnes, Paul (August 14, 2003). Cypher review Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). Retrieved 2010-07-25.
  4. ^ Cypher (2002). Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-07-25.

External links

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