Cypher (2002)

R   |    |  Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller


Cypher (2002) Poster

An unsuspecting, disenchanted man finds himself working as a spy in the dangerous, high-stakes world of corporate espionage. Quickly getting way over-his-head, he teams up with a mysterious femme fatale.


6.8/10
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  • Jeremy Northam in Cypher (2002)
  • Jeremy Northam and Lucy Liu in Cypher (2002)
  • Jeremy Northam in Cypher (2002)
  • Jeremy Northam in Cypher (2002)
  • Lucy Liu in Cypher (2002)
  • Jeremy Northam in Cypher (2002)

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User Reviews


12 March 2011 | FSfilmblog
8
| tantalizing brain teaser
The second feature from Vincenzo Natali (director of the cult film Cube, if you haven't seen it, go check it out) comes this tantalizing sci-fi with hints of film noir blended together to create a smart and puzzling piece of espionage, double-cross with numerous twists and turns.

Set in an alternative reality where a bored business man Morgan Sullivan (played with bookish awkwardness by Jermery Northam) decides to apply for a job at a global computer firm Digicorp. He successfully passes the rigorous test and learns he is to work as a spy to steal information from their rivals Sunways Systems. Morgan is given a new identity (Jack Thursby) where he attends these business conferences to retrieve and relay information back to Digicorp.

Morgan starts off thinking that this would be an adventure where he can re-invent himself as the man he'd like to be. When he spots a mysterious woman (Rita played by Lucy Lui), he tries his luck, only to be blown off. As he sent on further conferences he starts to experience extreme headaches where masses of images explode in his mind which he doesn't comprehend. When he spots Rita again in his hotel again he follows her to the rooftop where she explains to him that all is not what it seems at the conferences he is going to.... and that's when the fun starts. Here is the beginning of the many twist and turns involved in the film.

Set in monochromatic colours, where there is light there is shadow and the whole film seems to be set in a neo film noir colouring of greys and whites. There is a distinct style that the film tries to go for and mostly achieves. A world, which is not dissimilar to our own, is bought to life by the high contrast and sharp detail by cinematographer Derek Rogers giving the whole feel a cold, calculated and cool precision look.

The performances by Jeremy Northam provides the main focus as we see his transformation from a bland everyday businessman into a paranoid agent who allegiances is divided and is unsure of who to trust and who to follow. By the end of the film he becomes a completely different person and is a measured piece of acting by Northam. Lucy Lui also plays the role of the femme fatale very well and isn't playing her usual spoilt brat routine (which is normally very unbearable for me). All other supporting cast do a decent enough job but it's not really a film to really rave on about the acting side of things.

The most impressive thing about this, is learning that the film was initial financed by family and friends on their credit cards and was only pick up later on by a major distributor and with a larger budget (even then it's only $7.5 million) to work on, it looks amazing. Shot in very little time, it's a puzzler that isn't too hard to work out (though you will need a little concentration to follow it) but to fully appreciate it, I would suggest you don't view the trailer, otherwise a lot of the key plot points maybe ruined and the surprises and twists will be foreseen. All in all it's very stylist sci-fi thriller with plenty to give the brain a workout.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the final scene (on the sailboat) the information contained on the disc reveals numerous details about Rita Foster's life leading up to the reason Sunways Systems wants her executed; however, the text flashes past the screen too quickly for the audience to read. The following is the information exactly as it appears on the disc:

Sunways Security File # 247174y510987h3df8708 This is a Code Orange File. Any persons found in possession of this material without adequate Level 6 Security Clearance will be immediately prosecuted under Sunways Special Order 43875. FOSTER, RITA Sunways Security File #247174y514543gcfdgfc jge454u5 Foster, Rita A.K.A. Dr. Kelley Doris, Natassia Sarbinski, Amy Green, Namie Tsukemodo, Yi Fung-Yu, Kitty Wells, Ju Pau Killbit, Horatia Delusentopolis, Jill Hopkins, Akita Spools, Francesca Pistolesi, Dorlissa "Hurricane" Trubadore, Anias Schmidt, Antionette Dubois, Ilsa Von Kustanst, Erica Sinyor, Ika Vital Stats: Sex: Female, Race: Asian, Height: 5' 6'', Weight: 105 pounds Born: January 6, 1971 Education: Peking Opera, PHD in Criminology and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University Present whereabouts: Unknown Orphaned at the age of four when her parents were executed by government shock troops for "insurgency and anarchist ties". Rita Foster's original name was Tsing Lung. She was adopted by a family of circus acrobats known as the Panda Clan, famous for unusual "Panda-like" black markings on their skin. To protect her from the clutches of the state orphanage they painted ( * illegible text * ) to resemble their own and took her on a cross country tour. Under Panda tutelage, Foster became a first rate contortionist, performing in the small towns and villages which dot the countryside of the Southern provinces of China. In 1976, Hong Tao, a former strongman saw her act. Recognizing her talent, he brought her to the Peking Opera where she endured the rigors acrobat training. By the age of ten, she became a featured trapeze artist. In spite of her success, she longed to escape from the brutal life of the circus. During the 1982 world tour of the Peking Opera, she defected to the West. Her first home outside of China was in Rome, Italy, where she scraped together a living as street performer. Little is known of this period. It has been rumored that ( * illegible text * ) SABASTIAN ROOKS, who at that time may have orchestrated the illegal sale of priceless artifacts from the Vatican. The procurement of these religious objects was secretly ordered by the highest echelons of the Catholic Church to assist in easing its own financial woes. Foster may have been employed by Rooks to help steal these items from vaults hidden deep in the bowels of the Vatican City and later replace them with flawless forgeries. Most famous of these pieces was the Shroud of Turin which Rooks is rumored to have kept for himself. In 1983, exactly one year later, Foster crossed the Atlantic to New York. It is at this time that Foster acquired her American name and citizenship, presumably with the assistance of Rooks. Foster had little difficulty adopting to the American lifestyle having studied English in Italy. In a very short period of time, she became a fashion model. By the age of sixteen she was courted by New York's top agencies, but she turned her back on the fashion industry when she was accepted to Stanford University. There she studied behavioral sciences, eventually specializing in criminology. Her 1994 graduate thesis "Aberrant Behavior of the Unconscious Criminal" caused a great controversy, linking criminal behavior with the subconscious mind. Foster argued that latent identities exist in recesses of the cerebral cortex. Some of these identities are antisocial by nature and therefore inclined to criminal behavior. Her paper argued that these aberrant entities served an essential function in the evolution of our social design. "By challenging moral standards they invoke change." Therefore she reasoned antisocial behavior is a positive force for societal progression. So explosive was this notion that the Stanford psychology department tried to suppress the publication of Foster's findings. Angered but unable to fight back Foster turned her back on academia. At this critical juncture in her life, Rooks once again appeared on the scene. There is no clear evidence of their meeting but close friends of Foster claimed that she had been invited to a remote island in the South Pacific to spend time on Rooks' yacht. In 1996 all traces of Foster vanished. While there is no conclusive evidence to link her to Rooks' operations in this period, she may have participated in Rooks' famous "Triad Info Highjacking". This constituted a major security breach within the Triad of megacorporations, of which Sunways is a member. It would seem that Foster had come to embody her own thesis of the criminal mind. She is suspected of helping Rooks spread disinformation to Sunways' sister company, New Paths Technologies and send agents in Sunways' most sensitive information centers. By the end of 2000 it became apparent that Rita Foster was Rook's number one operative. Whenever Sunways has required Rooks' services, his chief representative has been Foster. While contact with her remains indirect, it appears that her relationship with Rooks may extend beyond the professional. In other words, Foster may be Rooks' Achilles heel. If she is destroyed, Sunways may have a chance of seriously damaging Rooks' counter-Triad operations. It is the recommendation of the Sunways Security Chief Francis C. Callaway that Rita Foster be targeted for elimination. This a Code Orange Termination Order. Code #48754354. Terminate with extreme prejudice. ( * over her photo * ) TERMINATE WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE

If all of this information is true, it adds another dimension to the story because Rooks and Foster have been troublemakers all along. They have not simply fallen victim to ruthless corporate brainwashing. They have a history of criminal conduct - coupled with criminal ideologies - which has embroiled them in the inner workings of these ruthless corporations. Now, they are forced to take desperate measures to eradicate their troubled past.

Then again, perhaps some or all of the information on the disc was simply fabricated by Sunways Systems to justify the termination order. For example: Security Chief Callaway may have a personal issue with Foster, so he has fabricated her past history to justify his issuance of her termination order.

In either case, the disc's information adds another dimension to the story.

As an aside, the following items are interesting to note:

1. The Sunways Systems security file numbers are similar for the first nine characters but change for the remainder of the string.

2. The surname of one of Foster's alias's is Killbit. A killbit is a security feature in web browsers (based on Microsoft technology) with the main purpose of closing security holes. If a security hole is located, a request can be made for Microsoft to put out a killbit for it. In the film, Foster is deemed a security risk so a killbit request - the termination order - has been put out for her.

Also, the surname resembles the film series _Kill Bill_ in which Lucy Liu portrayed O-Ren "Cottonmouth" Ishii.

3. Foster's height is listed as 5' 6'' whereas Lucy Liu is 5' 3'' in height.

4. Foster's date of birth is given as 06 January 1971. Vincenzo Natali, the film's director, was born on 06 January 1969.

5. Rooks's first name is misspelled as Sabastian on the disc. His true name is Sebastian Rooks which appears when he logs in to the console of the helicopter he designed. (Presumably, he knows how to spell his own name correctly, and has used the correct spelling while designing the login prompt.)


Quotes

Sunways Security Guard: You planning a vacation, Mr. Sullivan?
Morgan Sullivan: No. No, just some reading to pass the time.


Goofs

At the convention in Boise, Idaho, waiters with trays are stood on either side of the stage while two speakers address the audience. Usually, waiters would disappear after they had served the drinks.


Soundtracks

Never Been In Love
Written by:
Scott Nickoley, Stephen Lang, and Jamie Dunlap

Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Mystery | Sci-Fi | Thriller

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