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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner11/08/2003

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

Intriguing, stylish, mind-bending sci-fi thriller from the director of Cube, featuring an impressive performance by Jeremy Northam – and all for a fraction of the cost of The Matrix: Reloaded.

Canadian director Vincenzo Natali made something of a splash with his visually inventive 1997 sci-fi thriller Cube, in which five strangers found themselves in a booby-trapped cage. For his second feature, Cypher, he continues to explore themes of reality, identity and manipulation and the result is an intriguing, twist-laden sci-fi thriller that’s a little bit like a micro-budget Matrix meets James Bond.

Geek Ignored And Bored

Jeremy Northam plays Morgan Sullivan (the Preston Sturges reference surely no coincidence), a nerdy computer geek seemingly straight out of a Far Side cartoon. Ignored by his wife and bored with his job he applies for a job with the global computer firm Digicorp and is immediately recruited for corporate espionage work by his creepy new boss (Nigel Bennett).

He’s given a new identity and sent deep undercover, attending conferences around the country, where he begins to enjoy his new secret life.

However, when he meets sexy mystery woman Rita (Lucy Liu), she opens his eyes (literally) to what is really going on (involving Matrix-style brainwashing) and Morgan finds himself acting as a double agent for rival company Sunways, with yet another mysterious boss (Timothy Webber). But as layer upon layer of ‘reality’ unravels, Morgan finds himself wondering if he can really trust Rita, or even himself, for that matter…

Superb Performance From Northam

Northam is excellent as Morgan – the plot requires him to completely change his entire character and he pulls it off brilliantly, transforming his voice, his walk and his mannerisms. He’s absolutely superb (and hilarious) as the computer nerd, though – so much so that you wish more of the film involved that ‘character’. Liu is also well cast as the is she, isn’t she femme fatale, a sexy, powerful character who just may be a fantasy figure cooked up by Morgan’s brain.

Cypher is an enjoyably twisty tale with its sense of futuristic unreality heightened considerably by desaturated photography courtesy of cinematographer Derek Rogers. It’s also surprisingly funny at times, particularly at the beginning and the end.

In short, Cypher, like Cube, is an impressive low-budget feature that has Future Cult Movie written all over it. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 18/02/2020 10:04

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