A sense of paranoia permeates Vincenzo Natali’s sci-fi thriller Cypher, and it’s all the better for it.
(USA/Canada 2002, director: Vincenzo Natali)
An everyday man is hired by a company to do espionage on other corporations and soon he loses all sense of identity, becoming a pawn in a much bigger game.
This is one of those movies that despite its low budget can be believable and suspenseful at the same time, mainly due to enough mysteries and surprises along the way. What it also achieves is to make the audience believe in the same paranoia the main protagonist experiences. Like the best of espionage thrillers, few people can be trusted and relied on. The sense of losing one’s own identity has of course been done before, but it’s taken to its extreme here.
Unlike a movie like Matrix that also deals with alternate realities and manipulation, there are very few action scenes. But it’s not only dialogue-driven like so many sci-fi movies which ultimately becomes boring, as the suspense really comes from the individual setpieces, the situations the main character is in with some frightening future scenarios that are still real enough to be close to the present-day without an overload of gimmicks.
The only downside to the low production values is that the special effects are pretty bad, especially with some explosions and flying vehicles one has seen better realized with an amateur video editing program. So it’s good that there’s not much of the outside world to see. However, this isn’t irritating, as it adds to the sense of isolation and changes of identically looking places. The whole look of the movie is also quite cold which fits perfectly to the corporate espionage theme.
Simply said, I enjoyed this movie much more than the overrated Cube the director has become famous for. I wouldn’t go so far as to put it above Matrix, but considering its low budget and more suspenseful story, it’s certainly on par and should be checked out even by those who usually avoid sci-fi because of the running time.
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