Cypher

Movie Review by Neil Ryan

Starring: Jeremy Northam, Lucy Liu, David Hewlett, Anne Marie Scheffler
Director: Vincenzo Natali

This is pretty standard fare. A partially realised attempt at a sci-fi mystery that delivers a moderately exciting story whilst failing to really get going. Jeremy Northam plays Morgan Sullivan, a restless accountant who resembles American comedian Greg Proops in full-on geek mode. Eager for more challenging work, Sullivan opts for a spot of corporate espionage by signing up to be a company spy for the sinister organisation Digicorp. Ostensibly this consists of travelling throughout America attending business conventions and recording the proceedings surreptitiously for Digicorp boffins to download afterwards. In actuality Sullivan has entered a world of subterfuge and double-dealing: every unexpected phone call, chance encounter in an elevator, or innocent message from a hotel receptionist leads to further intrigue. When he is not being courted with counter-offers from Digicorp’s rivals, or followed by the mysterious Rita (Lucy Liu) with her revelations about brainwashing, Sullivan is experiencing traumatic inexplicable flashbacks. And to add to his uncertainty, every group or individual he encounters claims that the others will kill him once he outwears his usefulness. Should’ve stuck to counting beans.

There are two main problems with CYPHER. The first is that it is not long enough: greater emphasis on the character and situation of Sullivan at the outset would have provided a context for his recruitment by Digicorp and helped the audience understand, and identify with, him. Secondly, the whole corporate spy games angle is exceedingly flimsy. At no point does the script bother to explain exactly what it is that Digicorp do, or what they have to gain by this brainwashing lark. Why do they and their rivals need private armies? And what is all the fuss about the disks at the film’s climax? Methinks that the real brainwashing has been conducted by the filmmakers by throwing a mish-mash of incomplete ideas together and hoping that the audience won’t see the wood for the trees.

3 out of 6 stars

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