Cube (film)

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Cube The Movie Poster Art.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Produced by Mehra Meh
Betty Orr
Colin Brunton
Written by André Bijelic
Graeme Manson
Vincenzo Natali
Starring Nicole de Boer
Nicky Guadagni
David Hewlett
Andrew Miller
Julian Richings
Wayne Robson
Maurice Dean Wint
Music by Mark Korven
Cinematography Derek Rogers
Editing by John Sanders
Studio Feature Film Project, The
Odeon Films
Viacom Canada
Ontario Film Development Corporation
Cube Libre
Téléfilm Canada
Harold Greenberg Fund, The
Distributed by Cineplex Odeon Films
Release dates September 9, 1997 (Toronto International Film Festival)
September 11, 1998 (United States)
Running time 90 minutes
Country Canada
Language English
Budget $350,000[1]
Box office $501,818[2]

Cube is a 1997 Canadian science fiction psychological horror film, directed and co-written by Vincenzo Natali.[3] The film was a successful product of the Canadian Film Center's First Feature Project.[4]


A man named Alderson (Julian Richings) awakens and finds himself in a cube-shaped room with a hatch in each wall, the floor, and the ceiling. Opening some of the hatches, he finds passages to rooms that are identical except for their colors. He enters an orange room and, without warning, is sliced to pieces by a wire grill which kills him instantly.

In another such room, five people - Quentin, Worth, Holloway, Rennes, and Leaven - meet. None of them knows where he or she is or how he or she got there. Quentin informs the others that some cubes contain traps, which he learned by nearly being killed by one. Rennes assumes each trap is triggered by a motion detector, and tests each room by throwing one of his boots in first. Leaven notices numbers inscribed in the passageways between rooms. Quentin, a policeman, recognizes Rennes as "the Wren", an escape artist renowned for getting out of jails. After declaring one room trap-free, Rennes enters and is sprayed with acid, killing him. The others realize that there are different kinds of detectors, and Quentin deduces that this trap was triggered by heat.

Quentin believes each person has a reason for being there. He is a police officer, Leaven is a mathematics student, Holloway a doctor and conspiracy theorist who thinks the "military industrial complex" is responsible for their predicament, and the surly Worth declines to talk about himself or his past. Leaven hypothesizes that any room marked with a prime number is a trap. They find a mentally challenged man named Kazan, whom Holloway insists they bring along.

Quentin enters a room determined safe by Leaven's calculations, but is nearly killed by a razor-wire trap. Tensions rise due to personality conflicts and the group's lack of confidence in Leaven's system. Quentin provokes Worth into an argument about finding the exit, and Worth insists there is no escape. Worth admits that he designed the Cube's outer shell for a shadowy bureaucracy. He denies knowing anything else about it but guesses that its original purpose has been forgotten, and that they have been imprisoned within simply to put it to use (so that the organisation could avoid admitting that the Cube was a waste of time and money). His knowledge of the outer shell's size allows Leaven to determine that each side of the Cube is 26 rooms across, for 17,576 rooms in all. She guesses that the numbers indicate the Cartesian coordinates of the rooms. The group starts moving toward the nearest edge as determined by her theory.

Believing themselves near the outer wall of the Cube, they find that each neighboring room is trapped. Rather than backtrack, they decide to make their way silently through a blue coloured room whose trap is activated by sound. The passage is without incident until Kazan makes a noise during Quentin's transit of the room and Quentin is almost impaled by spikes. Upon reaching safety, he threatens Kazan with violence, terrifying Kazan.

On the other side, they find a wide, unlit gap between the Cube and the outer shell. Tying together their clothing to make a rope, Holloway swings out to investigate but nearly falls when the Cube quakes violently. Quentin takes the opportunity to drop her to her death, and he tells the others that she slipped.

Quentin tries to persuade Leaven to abandon the others with him. He makes a sexual advance but she rejects him, and Quentin becomes aggressive. When Worth intervenes, Quentin beats him savagely and drops him through the floor hatch. Worth laughs hysterically at what he finds — Rennes's corpse. The group is demoralized by the thought of having been wandering in circles. Worth has an epiphany, realizing that the rooms themselves are moving periodically relative to each other, and this movement is responsible for the rumbling sounds and violent quaking.

Leaven deduces that traps are not tagged by prime numbers, but by powers of prime numbers. Leaven realizes that Kazan is an autistic savant who can quickly do prime factorisations mentally, much to Quentin's surprise. Leaven determines that the numbers indicate the positions within the cube where each room rests between moves through the Cube. The room that connects to the "bridge" leading to the only door in the outer shell proves to be the one in which the group first woke up. The alignment they need to escape will come in two moves.

Worth pre-emptively ambushes Quentin and leaves him behind during room movement, then he, Leaven, and Kazan hurry to the cube adjoining the bridge. When they open the hatch, they are bathed in a bright white light. Kazan enters the bridge room. Worth decides to stay behind; he insists there is nothing outside for him but "boundless human stupidity". Leaven objects and convinces Worth to join her, but Quentin suddenly reappears and fatally stabs Leaven and then Worth. Quentin moves to kill Kazan, but with the last of his strength Worth grabs Quentin's leg, pinning him in the passageway between rooms as the rooms shift again; Quentin is torn apart while Worth succumbs to his own wounds and dies seconds later, leaving Kazan alone in the bridge who slowly walks into the bright light.

The Cube design[edit]

The fictional Cube device in the film was conceived by Dr. David W. Pravica, a mathematician. It consists of an outer cubical shell (the sarcophagus) and the inner cube. One side of the outer shell is 434 feet long. The inner cube consists of 263 = 17,576 cubical rooms (minus an unknown amount of rooms to allow for movement, as shown in the film), each having a sidelength of 15.5 feet. There is a space of 15.5 feet between the cube and the shell. Each room is labelled with three identification numbers, for example, 517 478 565. These numbers encode the starting coordinates of the room and the x, y, and z coordinates are the sums of the digits of the first, second, and third number respectively. The numbers also determine the movement of the room and the subsequent positions are obtained by cyclically subtracting the digits from one another. The resulting numbers are then successively added to the starting numbers.[5]



After writing Cube, Vincenzo Natali developed and filmed a short entitled Elevated. The short was set in an elevator and was intended to give investors an idea of how Cube would hypothetically look and come across. It eventually got the feature financed. Cube was shot on a Toronto soundstage.[6]

Only one cube, measuring 14 by 14 by 14 feet, was actually built, with only one working door that could actually support the weight of the actors. The color of the room was changed by sliding panels.[7] Since this task was a time-consuming procedure, the movie was not shot in sequence; all shots taking place in rooms of a specific colour were shot one at a time. It was intended that there would be six different colours of rooms to match the recurring theme of six throughout the movie; five sets of gel panels plus pure white. However, the budget did not stretch to the sixth gel panel and so there are only five different room colours in the movie. Another partial cube was made for shots requiring the point of view of standing in one room looking into another.[8]

An episode of the original The Twilight Zone television series, "Five Characters in Search of an Exit", was reportedly an inspiration for the movie.[citation needed]


Cube polarised critics, with many highly positive reviews to negative, earning an overall approval rating of 62% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 37 reviews. Movie critics for Electric Sheep magazine, AMC's, and Empire Online gave the film positive reviews,[9][10][11] while critics for Nitrate Online and the San Francisco Chronicle panned the film.[12][13] Bloody Disgusting gave the movie a positive review, writing "Shoddy acting and a semi-weak script can't hold this movie back. It's simply too good a premise and too well-directed to let minor hindrances derail its creepy premise."[14] Slant Magazine panned the film, saying "like lab rats futilely running on their treadmill, Cube eventually winds up going nowhere fast."[15]


After Cube achieved cult status, a sequel was produced, Cube 2: Hypercube, released in 2003.[16]

In 2004, a prequel, dubbed Cube Zero, was released.[17]


  1. ^ Kornits, Dov (8 May 1999). "eFilmCritic – Director, Vincenzo Natali – Cube". Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  2. ^ "Cube (1998) – Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  3. ^ Gates, Anita (September 11, 1998). "Cube (1997) FILM REVIEW; No Maps, Compasses Or Faith". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ "The Canadian Film Centre :: Our Projects". Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  5. ^ Polster, Burkard; Ross, Marty (2012). "6 Escape from the Cube". Math Goes to the Movies. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 85–96. ISBN 978-1-4214-0484-4. 
  6. ^ "". 2005-11-15. Archived from the original on 2006-02-11. Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  7. ^ "". 1998-11-20. Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  8. ^ Emmer, Michele; Manaresi, Mirella (2003). Mathematics, Art, Technology, and Cinema. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag. pp. 172–180. ISBN 3-540-00601-X. 
  9. ^ Cube Electric Sheep Magazine
  10. ^ Cube
  11. ^ Cube Empire Online
  12. ^ Cube Nitrate Online
  13. ^ `Cube's' Cogs Stuck In Its Pure Visuals San Francisco Chronicle
  14. ^ Cube Bloody Disgusting
  15. ^ Cube Slant Magazine
  16. ^ "Cube 2: Hypercube". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ "Cube Zero". The New York Times. 

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