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Cypher (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None listed as present

SCIENCE fiction as a means of making you think seems to be making a comeback of late, no doubt buoyed by the Box Office under-performance of some of the more effects-heavy no-brainers.

Movies such as The Matrix, Solaris and, to a lesser extent, Minority Report, have provided plenty for the brain, as well as the eye, to take in, while also tipping their hat to the likes of Kubrick and Scott in their heyday. All of which brings us neatly to Cypher.

A complex little tale of industrial espionage and lost identity set in the future, Cypher is the latest film from Cube director, Vincenzo Natali, and a neatly claustrophobic thriller to boot.

Jeremy Northam stars as out-of-work accountant, Morgan Sullivan, who seeks an escape from his lacklustre existence by joining the multi-national computer corporation, Digicorp, to become a commanding spy.

Adopting a new identity, he is sent to spy on various trade conventions, but falls under the spell of Lucy Liu’s elusive, but beautiful Rita, who reveals that Digicorp’s activities are merely designed as a ruse to brainwash him and others like him.

Yet by accepting her offer of assistance, he is ultimately forced to work for a rival organisation as a double agent, and finds his only means of escape lies in uncovering the identity of a deep cover operative, known as Sebastian Rooks, who seems to have made a living out of playing one side off against the other.

It is only when he steals vital data from a secured network belonging to the biggest of the two companies that he discovers the real truth behind his mission.

Fans of movies such as The Matrix will be more than familiar with the computer-based society created in Cypher, particularly given its brainwash scenario, but Natali pulls a neat trick by continually playing things close to his chest.

Hence, his film operates far more on a psychological level, building well on the same sort of claustrophobic paranoia that was evident in Cube, and forcing viewers to pay attention throughout.

The world he creates is suitably nightmarish as well, a sort of future America, in which every city looks the same, and colour is virtually bleached out, with everyone conforming to some sort of hum-drum existence. It helps to lend the film its own identity, particularly during the latter stages.

The cast, too, is uniformly excellent, with Northam - who appears in practically every scene - providing an engaging and believable hero, who taps well into the increasing hopelessness of his predicament.

Liu, too, walks that fine line between the alluring and intimidating that has become something of a trademark, providing some great chemistry with Northam in their scenes together.

Natali may, ultimately, give in to the urge to deliver an action-packed, race-against-time finale, but even this is competently handled, while the final few twists are never compromised and are likely to have you piecing things together for some time afterwards.

And while mainstream audiences may find the lack of a genuine A-list presence, or a mega-effects budget, off-putting, those who are willing to give it a shot should find Cypher a surprising, and rewarding, experience.

It bears all the hallmarks of becoming a cult classic and demands at least two viewings.

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