Cocktails and Movies Take Out Theater: “Cube”

by Tim Barley

This week in “Take Out Theater,” Cocktails and Movies feels the walls closing in slowly, in Cube

cocktails and movies take out theater Home Theater with popcornImagine waking up, taken from where you last remember yourself being and finding yourself in a cubic room 14’x14’x14′ with five complete strangers. Each room, although maybe a different color (red, green, blue, white and amber), has six exits and is exactly the same set up. The only difference is that some rooms are trapped with motion sensors, biologic sensors or aural sensors, springing deadly traps. There are no windows, no clue where you are or what time it is. There’s no ventilation. Only mysterious sets of numbers in the passage ways between each room and a mysterious machinery noise that rumbles every so often. Why are you  here? Who brought you hear? What do they want? Where are you? It’s a psychological horror test that leaves you wondering, as the walls seemingly close in around you… This week on “TakeOutTheater, we present:

The Film

cube cocktails and movies take out theaterCube
Directed By: Vincenzo Natali
Year Released: 1997 @ TIFF, U.S. 1998
Starring: David Hewlett, Nicole de Boer, Andrew Miller, Wayne Robson, Nicky Guadagni
Rating: R (but by today’s standards, PG-13)
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Studio: Cineplex Odeon Films, Feature Film Project

Tagline: Don’t Look For A Reason… Look For A Way Out

A man named Alderson awakens in a mysterious cube shaped room, finds an exit and enters another room exactly alike but for the color and is instantly diced by a trap. This sets up Cube. Six others, Worth (Hewlett), Quentin (Robson), Holloway (Guadagni), Rennes (Maurice Dean Wint), Leaven (de Boer) and shortly Kazan (Miller) find each other and determine that they need to find a way out. Yet, all the rooms with the exception of the color, are exactly alike. Rennes has determined a way to check for traps, but when he is killed by a trap that he couldn’t see, they need a new way to find out which rooms are trapped. This leads to each sharing bits of pieces of themselves. Leaven is a math student and can figure out a way, using the numbers on each passageway, to determine if the rooms are trapped. Quentin used to be a cop and his alpha dog style is grating on the nerves of Holloway, a liberal anti-big government conspiracy theorist. Kazan is an autistic savant who can figure out large numbers. But, it’s when Worth tells who he is that they figure out how dire their situation is. He was hired to build a shell. He doesn’t know who or why, just that he got paid to design a shell 26 rooms by 26 rooms by 26 rooms (17,576 rooms). (do the math and you’ll realize how big that must be)

As the heat and desperation set in, Quentin’s rage begins to grow. When Leaven figures out that there must be an edge, they head for it, only to find the outside of the cube in complete darkness. Holloway falls to her death on the outside of the cube as Leaven determines that there must be a bridge to the outside, and with Kazan’s help, they find a path back to the beginning, only to find that all along the rooms have been moving. Finally, they reach the door to the outside and only Kazan is able to walk into the light as the rooms shift yet again…

Who, what, where, when, why?

Cube has found itself as a cult favorite over the years.  Its surreal, Kafkaesque settings, being set in identical cube-like rooms with each room being a different color (white, blue, green, amber and red), and no background story revealed for the characters or the reason they were left in the Cube keep the mystery, which allows the audience to focus in on the characters’ dilemma. The film also doesn’t demonstrate any clear plot point regarding the Cube’s background, creation, purpose or its location. It’s just here. And they are trapped in it. The timeframe of the story is also left unknown which further adds to the longterm cult cred. Each character is allowed to share details of themselves and their frame of mind with the audience as it comes up in the film and not artificially with some personal, opening-up soliloquy. As the heat and scope of the problem begin to take their toll, each member of the group reverts to the survival technique that served them on the outside.

cube scene cocktails and movies take out theaterWhen it opened, good and bad reviews were split but it holds a 61% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes.com. Overall, what saves the movie from itself is the very idea of the film, set design and cramped feel to go along with the solid directing by Natali, which makes up for a little bad acting from Guadagni and Robson. But their characters are the Scylla and Charybdis of the group; each has a view point about the outside world. Holloway’s character believes that the “military industrial complex” is responsible for everything bad in the world, while Quentin reminds her to that if it wasn’t for people like him, they’d all be at the mercy of the bad things outside. That each one of these people is in here isn’t a mistake. Each is a representation of a facet of society. But, it’s Hewlett’s portrayal of Worth that makes you really enjoy this movie by thinking.

At one point in the film, they come to a point where it doesn’t look like there is a safe way to go next. When Quentin baits Worth, he blurts out, “There is no way out.” He tells them his story. The questions of “why?” come quickly and a truly important point comes out: “It’s a headless blunder laboring under the impression of a master plan.” Which boils down to: He believes that it was ordered by a bureaucracy, its purpose lost over time; they are only imprisoned there because not using it would require the organization to admit that the Cube was a mistake, a waste of time and money.

Footnote: The cube device in the movie was designed by Dr. David W. Pravica, a mathematician. Consisting of an outer cubical shell (the sarcophagus) and an inner cube each side of the outer shell is 434 feet long. The inner cube consists of 263 = 17576 cubical rooms, 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 labeled 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.

Only one (1) total room with 6 exits was built. Changing the color of each room was done by changing color gels.

Now, how do we forget our captivity?

If you’ve been trapped in a 14’x14’x14′ room that looks like 17000+ other rooms, with five strangers, how do you forget it? Why you choose a great vodka drink…

The Drink: The Mind Eraser

mind eraser cocktails and movies take out theaterI chose the Mind Eraser because it fits well with this movie. Who wouldn’t want to forget the whole thing happened and just wake up back at home, safe in bed…?  When drunk properly, the Mind Eraser creates a head rush similar to the one you get when you’ve eaten ice cream too fast. Built over ice and served with a straw, the trick is to drink the all of it through the straw in one shot. When you do this the carbonation gives you a quick head rush before the alcohol sets in to do it’s job.

Ingredients

  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1 oz coffee liqueur
  • Soda water
  • Lime wedge for garnish

Directions

  1. Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice.
  2. Pour the vodka and coffee liqueur over the ice.
  3. Fill with soda water.
  4. Garnish with a lime wedge and serve with a straw.


Cocktails and Movies thanks you for coming out!

Personally, I would drink a vodka soda all throughout the film and then the mind eraser, but for you neophytes out there, this might be too much. Thanks to About.com for the Mind Erase recipe and thanks to all of you for coming back for another installment of #TakeOutTheater! Got any suggestions for film and drink pairings? Send ‘em our way through the Comments below, our Facebook/Twitter pages, or just email us. We’ll see you again next week!