While he hasn't done that many movies, Vincenzo Natali is quite an underrated director who needs a big break. But then again, I'm not sure how (or if) Hollywood would appreciate his odd style. Like many people, I discovered Vincenzo with Cube. I then went to Nothing, which was almost too strange and out-there. And then I heard about this film, which is probably the closest he's gotten to mainstream (mostly due to having an ending that actually has closure and isn't mind-bending).
Cypher is about Morgan Sullivan (Jeremy Northam), an average man who gets a job with a high-tech corporation called DigiCorp as a spy, changing his name to Jack Thursby. They send him around the country to boring conventions to spy on their rivals, Sunways. But at these conventions, he keeps running into a sexy femme fatale named Rita (Lucy Liu), who begins to show Morgan that there's more to this than there seems. She warns him that he must remember that he is Morgan, not Jack Thursby, and she gives him help in the form of both advice and other (medication, shots, etc.) that help him see what's really going on with DigiCorp. And what follows is a twisty, turny espionage thriller (with a twist of sci-fi) about mind control where you can never be sure who to trust and who is telling the truth.
This movie is a total mind-freak. It's slow to start, but interesting enough to keep you involved. But eventually, it just starts going all-out and you have no idea what the hell is going on anymore (I mean, the film is completely understandable, it's just you're never sure who to trust, much like Morgan himself). There are so many twists and turns in this film, it's ridiculous. Is DigiCorp really evil? Is Sunways good, or are they playing Morgan just like DigiCorp? Who is Rita? And is her boss to be trusted, or is he yet another person he may or may not be able to trust? Needless to say, it's almost literally an insane ride.
The acting is really good, too. At first I thought a couple parts were questionable, but as it turns out from what you discover later... well, let's just say even the acting makes sense in how it was done. Jeremy Northam looks like a strange blend of David Duchovny and Tim Blake Nelson (and one more I can't place). He plays well going from the giddy new spy to the 'wtf have I gotten myself into' guy. Lucy Liu was great as the femme fatale, as well. Quite a bit different than what else I've seen her in as of late. And then there's David Hewlett, who is to Vincenzo Natali as Johnny Depp is to Tim Burton (except without being too over-exposed). He does really well as usual... sorry I can't be more specific here, but his role really isn't that huge. It's fun, though.
For such a low budget film (for its genre, anyway), as are all Vincenzo Natali films, the special effects were really good. I swear, Natali needs to teach filmmakers how to do more with less, because he's mastered it. From Cube to this, he can make completely engaging films with so little budget (this film was only made with 7.5 mil).
Overall, I really recommend the film if you're into spy thrillers, 'near-future' sci-fi, identity confusion, or just mind-freak films in general. It's certainly one heck of a ride. There are a ton of twists, some easier to see than others, and a satisfying ending.
A Keanu 'Whoa'