Top critical review
An Allegory? yes. But much, much more
on April 26, 2002
There was a reviewer who said many of these synopses miss the point and for the most part I agree with him. He argued that the characters were allegories for six common types of people: the militiristic, conceited leader, the book smart nerd who lacks common sense, the nihilist, the paranoid care giver, the innocent, somewhat ignorant, child, and the hardened criminal who cares only about himself. Like I said, he's right, but I think he oversimplifies the issue. The cube itself is an allegory. An allegory of the world we live in (yes, I realize that it was meant to look like someone's concept of hell, but who can prove that the Earth we reside on isn't someone's concept of hell?). This brings me to my most important metaphysical point. A lot of people--both reviewers in this forum as well as friends I've discussed this film with--get hung up on the fact that we never learn who constructed this cube and let this hang up negatively affect their opinion of this flick. I say that's silly because it shouldn't matter who constructed it. Nevermind the fact that the dialogue dismisses the concern by saying, let's remember that the cube is an allegory of the earth. And the characters in the film ask the same questions that philosophers have been asking for centuries: who created this? what is the point? how do we succeed and ascend? what ethical code do we need to obey? But just as all of these philosophers can't answer these questions, either can the characters. And if they could answer the questions, the allegory would be ruined, and the movie would fail.
But that's enough philosophical babble. Let's consider the film itself. Many say these characters aren't developed. I don't agree. Each character has their own personality and each character is affected differently by the cube. One goes completely insane, one gets angry and determined, another is resolved to solve the riddle, and another is convinced it can't be solved. Are these characters 3 dimensional; maybe not. But that doesn't matter. We see as much of these people as they could ever be expected to reveal of themselves in front of perfect strangers in a situation such as this. Another common complaint is the dialogue, the writing. Dialogue is a tricky thing, but it was written very well here and I don't understand the complaint.
Where the movie fails for me is the ending. I don't see it's point. All of the metaphyisical and allegorical objectives of the flick were already achieved. It had already shown us that we need to work together, rather than against each other, if there's any hope to saving the human race. It had shown us that we need to look for and find the intrinsic value of person we meet, rather than assuming some are worse than others. All the ending does is succumb to traditional horror methods, and weakens the overall effect of the movie.
Technically speaking, the camara angles do a remarkable job of further developing the cube's claustophobic effects. The sound design and music are chilling and flawless. The lighting is kind of hokie and some the shot frames a little cliched--though others are inventive.
If not for the end, I'd say this is a four (simply because I almost never give fives) considering the budget they had to work with.