Friday, October 06, 2006


I’d never heard of Cypher until someone on a film panel recommended it at Worldcon in August. I jotted down the title, added it to my Netflix queue, and took a look at it this week. If you’re a fan of the Philip K. Dick style of paranoid sci-fi cyber-thriller, drop whatever you’re doing right now and track down a copy of this movie. You will enjoy it. I promise.

Cypher was directed by Vincenzo Natali, who made a nifty little film called Cube about a decade ago. This is smarter, more stylish, and more savvy than Cube, which is saying a lot. Cypher was filmed in 2002, was released in Japan and the U.K. in 2003, and had an extremely limited release in the U.S. last year. Thank God for Netflix. Very quickly, here’s Cypher’s plotline:

Suburban corporate schlub Morgan Sullivan (Jeremy Notham of Gosford Park) nabs a freelance job at high-tech Digicorp. His assignment: attend conventions under a manufactured identity (“Jack Thursby”), secretly tape speeches, and transmit the content of those speeches to his superiors. In very short time, Morgan is enjoying the freedom of his new character; “Thursby” gives him the freedom to drink more than ginger ale, and he’s certainly more the ladies’ man than Morgan ever was. But there’s something weird going on. With the help of a mystery woman named Rita (Lucy Liu of Kill Bill and Charlie’s Angels), Morgan/Jack discovers that these mundane convention lectures about processed cheese and shaving cream distribution are really fronts for elaborate brainwashing sessions. But to what end? And if Jack Thursby is a phony, might not Morgan Sullivan be an artificial identity, too? Morgan has a wife, but so does the fictitious “Thursby,” who owns his own home miles away. What’s real? Who’s Rita...if there really is a Rita at all?

Cypher is complex and filled with turns everywhichway. All of which makes it very rewatchable. This is a “lost” movie that deserves to be found by a big audience.


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