Cube (2021) poster

Cube (2021)


Japan. 2021.


Director – Yashukiko Shimizu, Screenplay – Koj Tokuo, Based on the 1997 Film Written by Vincenzo Natali, Producers – Akiko Funatsu & Satoko Ishida, Photography – Tomoyuki Kawakima & Toyomichi Kurita, Music – Yutaka Yamada, Visual Effects – Imagica, Production Design – Naoyuki Hashimoto. Production Company – Shochiku.


Masaki Suda (Yuichi Goto), Kotaro Yoshida (Kazumasa Ando), Takumi Saito (Hiroshi Ide), Masaki Okada (Shinji Ochi), Anne Watanabe (Asako Kai), Hikaru Tashiro (Chio Uno), Tokio Emoto (First Man)


Six people find themselves trapped inside a series of rooms. Each room is a perfect cube and has a door leading into another identical room in each of its sides. However, some of the rooms contain death traps. The group make their way through the various rooms, improvising methods of detecting the traps. Yuichi believes there is a mathematical order to the rooms and that working this out will lead to a way of avoiding the trap rooms and finding an exit.

Cube (1997) was a unique and original film, a directorial debut for Canadian director Vincenzo Natali, that became a reasonable international hit. It was an existential puzzle-box film with characters trapped in a Labyrinth trying to understand the nature of the set-up in between their internal conflicts. There were two sequels with the not uninteresting Cube2: Hypercube (2002) and the desultory Cube: Zero (2004).

Recent years have seen a good many Hollywood films that conduct English-language remake of Japanese originals – The Ring (2002), The Grudge (2004), Speed Racer (2008), Death Note (2017), Ghost in the Shell (2017) and Cowboy Bebop (2021), not to mention the assorted versions of Godzilla (1998) and Godzilla (2014). You can go all the way back to Hollywood’s recycling of various Akira Kurosawa samurai films as Westerns in the 1960s. It is a surprise then to see here the process going the other way with an English-language film being remade in Japan.

The Japanese version is both extremely faithful to the original at the same time as varying from it in significant ways. This version replicates the design of the cube in almost identical ways. It keeps the same complement of six prisoners in the cube, although there is only one woman rather than two this time. The characters have the roughly equivalent roles that they did in the original, although there are some significant changes. For one, there is no sense that they have been selected for their individual skills – the end credits does list each character in terms of age and profession but these are of no import to the story.

Inside the Japanese cube in Cube (2021)
Inside the Japanese cube

The biggest change is the elimination of the character of Kazan as being autistic. His replacement is Hikaru Tashiro as the teenage Chio who appears shy and uncommunicative but nothing more than that. Like Kazan, Chio gets to survive at the end but because the script has eliminated the characters’ individuation, there is no particular reason for this. The other major change is the character of Quentin who was an aggressive macho police detective in the original who became increasingly more deranged throughout the course of the film. Here he becomes a twentysomething Masaki Okada who far less interestingly simply becomes a giggly psycho who kills people for some reason to do with that he hates adults.

While there is speculation about the maze’s purpose and very similar scenes where the group try to find their way out of it, gone now is the sense of it being a facility that was created by the military and the inclusion of one of the group who worked on its design. For some reason, the remake also writes in a redemption arc where we get brief flashbacks and even one wall of the cube opening out into a videoscreen that replays scenes from Masaki Suda’s past where he failed to stop his younger brother committing suicide by jumping from a roof, although the significance of such an addition is not clear. Into the mix is a very odd ending where [PLOT SPOILERS] the woman (Anne Watanbe) appears to be some sort of plant among the group and may even be an artificial lifeform.

Trailer here

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