Having worked as a storyboard artist on animated series such as Babar and Tintin, Vincenzo Natali was probably not top of the list to make his directorial debut with a sci-fi cult classic. But that’s what he did with Cube, a clean pure piece of sci-fi that could almost be said to have created a genre, the Aseptic White Room Thriller. See Duncan Jones’s Moon, for another classic of the genre. Cube riffs on Jean Paul Sartre’s Huis Clos, throwing a jailbird, a maths genius, a cop, a doc, a cynic and an autistic guy together inside a hi-tech, homicidal, claustrophobic cube comprising interlocking sliding parts – think Jenga with anger issues. None of this motley gang knows how they got there, where they are, or how they’re going to get out. But what seems to become increasingly apparent is that they either hang together, or hang separately. It’s an elegant set-up and no amount of slack acting, diabolical script or one-ply characterisation can knock this simple but ingenious film off course. “Hell is other people” is Sartre’s most quoted line from Huis Clos (usually translated as No Exit). Natali points out that other people are the route to salvation too.
© Steve Morrissey 2013