It's more like an interactive computer game than a conventional sci-fi thriller, but it's good, grisly fun nonetheless. Six strangers awake to find themselves trapped inside a giant Rubik's Cube-like prison, a huge complex of some 17,000 interconnected,
perfectly square cells. There's a hatchway on each of the cells' six surfaces that leads to the adjoining cube and, hopefully, the outside world. But there's a nasty catch: Some of the cubes are safe to pass through, others are booby-trapped in devious, deadly ways, and there's no clear way to
tell them apart. The object: Increasingly paranoid prisoners must move from block to block in order to reach the surface without a) getting sliced and diced by the traps; b) dying of starvation; or c) killing each another first. It's a high-concept setup, with shades of The Prisoner and THX
1138, and it's to writer-director Vincenzo Natali's considerable credit that he manages to keep it interesting with various twists and unexpected turns. Natali's underlying theme -- something about the evils of our increasingly compartmentalized society -- is intriguing but never fully fleshed
out, a number of key performances are grating and the dialogue is occasionally downright awful. So it ain't Sartre, but it doesn't need to be. Natali's film has a fabulous look, a nerve-wracking, claustrophobic mood, a number of genuinely suspenseful set-pieces and some sublimely stomach-churning
special effects. Barf bags recommended.
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