(The Good – 69.1) Cypher (or “Brainstorm” as it was released in Europe) is an interesting attempt at intelligent science fiction that looks and feels different to most other efforts. Jeremy Northam is a corporate spy who is employed by a technology company to spy on its competitor. However, it soon becomes apparent that he’s involved in something much bigger where the walls of reality are obscured and where his life as he knew it is in jeopardy. It’s difficult to describe this one without giving away too much of the plot but, suffice to say, there are definite shades of The Parallax View here.
Strangely enough, the major strength and weakness of this movie both lie in its look. The cold grading of the picture particularly in the first act gives everything an edgy and impersonal tone and when juxtaposed with the more bizarrely shot latter stages it works a treat both in helping the narrative and grounding the shifting perspective of Northam’s character. However, this also makes the earlier parts to the film rather inaccessible on an emotional level. This is compounded by the fact that there is nothing to entice the audience into the story beyond the mystery. The scenario Northam’s character finds himself in precludes us from getting to know him and while that is definitely the point, it alienates us from the lead to some degree. On top of that, the story over-complicates itself to the point where the ultimate revelation is clearly evident before it happens simply because it’s the only resolution that makes sense. Despite these reservations, hardcore sci-fi fans should really enjoy the intellectual roller-coaster ride but unfortunately it fails to be anything more than a good genre film. (Director: Vincenzo Natali; Genre: Science Fiction/Mystery)