Hoping for a more exciting life than the suburban drawl he currently inhabits, nerdy salaryman Morgan Sullivan takes a job as an industrial spy at Digicorp, a global computer corporation. Digicorp assigns him the duty of flying to various conventions around America, recording the speeches that are made. But when Sullivan meets a mysterious woman he begins to realize that his job may not be what it seems, as he descends into a dark underworld of brainwashing and struggles to maintain his own identity.
Directed by: Vincenzo Natali
. Starring: Jeremy Northam
, Lucy Liu
, Nigel Bennett
, Timothy Webber
, David Hewlett
, Kari Matchett
, Kristina Nicoll
, Joseph Scoren
, Stephen Brown
, Arnold Pinnock
, Jocelyn Snowdon
, Boyd Banks
, Steve Jackson
. Music by: Michael Andrews
What is a Cypher? If you have an inner ear infection or happen to be in your late eighties then your answer is probably a piece of comfy furniture that you keep losing your house keys down the back of. For the rest of us it's the key to cracking a code in which certain elements have been subsituted for others, letters for certain numbers and so on or perhaps a generic, one dimensional characature of something - what you and I know to be non-entities. Denise Richards as the Bond girl in The World Is Not Enough for example.
In Cypher the motion picture Morgan Sullivan is both these things. No, not Denise Richards but a complete blank and personification of suburban based clericaladministative office worker type personage, living in an area of identically laid houses and driveways but also the key to cracking the mystery of the plot, namely who is he really and to what end has his identity been manipulated? The other question, namely will he sleep with Lucy Liu is irrelevant but kept me going throughout the running time in ways I'd rather we didn't discuss.
Brian King's script arguably has plenty of satirical edge - corporate zombies brainwashed and literally reformulated by technological conglomarates, Suites working for large companies drugged into accepting a life of suburbian normalcy etc...but although this all works fairly well, even to the point of rendering Cypher strangely lifeless and perhaps too cold in its dramatatic thrust, this is first a foremost a sci-fi potboiler - not a whodunnit more a whoamiandwhatthehellisgoingon?
The direction, like the script is methodical and carefully layered - arguably a little too much so. Sometimes the film seems strangely emotion free and a little too careful in the construction of its narrative which lends the film a intellectual weight in that your concentrating to keep up with the stories twists and revelations but simulataniously devests the entire enterprise of any real viseral excitement or stand out moments. There are exceptions of course. The scene in which SullivanThursby, loaded with a antedote to Digicore's neural narcotic, witnesses the 'programming' of his conference colleagues is geniunely unsettling and leaves you to wonder whether or not Mrs. Thatcher used similar techniques with her Conservative peers at their conferences during the 1980's. The escape from the vault is also tense, injecting some much needed tension into what is well crafted but pedestrian plotting. The lack of star power also saps a little lustre from Cypher. Northam is fine in what is effectively the title role but although convincing as the blank slate caught up in events beyond his understanding, never shows any sign of providing charisma or memorable characterisation. Arguably hes a little TOO good as Jack Thursby.
Occasionally this film is like being plugged into your own computer programme that reminds you of the generic characteristics of all such mindbending thrillers. It's got the femme fatale who may or may not be on our hero's side, the secret meetings which tell you bugger all and the deliberately evasive dialogue in which people either simply don't answer questions asked of them or give some cyptic answer designed to annoy the tits off you. No wonder our man shoots the bitch toward the end (not fatally but then she wouldn't be there to claify things for us at the emd although it would have been a BRAVER ending given her importance to the plot). It wouldn't have taken me 90 minutes i'll tell you that.
Cypher, like it's forerunner Cube, is an extremely well designed film. It makes much of its lowmid-budget origins and makes up for it's lack of big names with an intelligent script and a hefty dollop of imagination. Theres never quite enough work on the emotions to make it a truly memorable experience but it's nonetheless worth a look. Mind you, if Sullivan had simply watched Total Recall he'd have figured the whole thing out long before the end.
Review by David_Frames from the Internet Movie Database.