Some time ago I came across the science fiction movie Cypher. I had never heard of it before but the title sounded intriguing enough so I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be a fine example of a science fiction thriller.

Review by Wasa
June 30, 2008

Director: Vincenzo Natali

Writer: Brian King

Jeremy Northam as Morgan Sullivan
Lucy Liu as Rita Foster
Nigel Bennett as Ed Finster
Thimothy Webber as Frank Calloway
David Hewlett as Virgil C. Dunn

Released: 2002

Rita Foster: Just remember who you are.

The movie is about a world in which multinational corporations recruit people to spy for them and generally use them as pawns for their own purposes. While I was watching it, I could not stop thinking: "We don't need intelligent computers and robots or aliens to enslave us. We are perfectly capable of doing it ourselves."

The main character of Cypher is Morgan Sullivan, an average guy who wants to break with his dull life and escape from his nagging wife by becoming a spy for the corporation called Digicorp. The company gives him a new identity and several assignments to boot.

Sullivan is not exactly your 007 material, but I guess that in the world of industrial espionage a low-profile and inconspicuous demeanor may well be an asset. His job is to go to conventions and gather information. At one of these conventions he meets a mysterious woman, Rita Foster. Later in the movie she reveals to him the secret behind the Digicorp and what those conventions were really about.

Sullivan soon realizes that the freedom he thought he had gained was no freedom at all. Whom can he trust? Digicorp? A rival company, Sunways? Mysterious Rita Foster and her, even more elusive boss Sebastian Rooks?

Sullivan's quest for truth is hampered by sudden headaches and flashes of memory. We have to be there every step of the way. Stay alert and focused. Cypher does not give us a moment's rest.

Director Vincenzo Natali creates a subdued plot, accompanied by a beautiful score at the beginning, which takes us into a world of intrigue and paranoia.

The unique atmosphere is underscored by a deft use of the limited range of colors. At times movie seems as though it had been shot in black and white. The few flashes of colors here and there give us clues as to what is supposed to be real.

There are no references to any specific time or place. Actually, some cities do get mentioned throughout the movie though we never really see any of them. We end up with a claustrophobic feeling that something is very wrong with this world.

The buildings which rise out of the empty landscape and disturbingly uniform suburban streets are among the stock images of this movie.

In a scene which for me is emblematic of Cypher, Sullivan enters a golden data bank whose interior is an architectural nightmare of walls tilted at surreal angles.

Jeremy Northam delivers a great performance as Morgan Sullivan. It is fun to watch his transformation from a gray mouse into a paranoid man into a guy who knows how to handle himself. Lucy Liu, as Rita Foster, paints a convincing portrait of a strong woman. She performed her action scenes without a stunt-double.

Cypher is a science fiction movie thriller with a clever plot, great cast and subtle score. It is not the kind of movie you are likely to forget.

Your gray cells will thank you for it. Enjoy!

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