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Cypher (2002)
Director: Vincenzo Natali

review by Debbie Moon

Morgan Sullivan is an ordinary guy looking for an ordinary job. Rather to his surprise, he's recruited to a ruthless corporation as an industrial spy, assigned to report on apparently innocuous trade conferences around the country. But, if that's all there is to his new job, why is he being stalked by a mysterious woman, attacked by kidnappers - and dreaming about another life that definitely isn't his? As he's sucked deeper into a war between two rival corporations, he starts to realise that nothing he thinks he knows can be relied upon - even his own memories...
   That may all sound rather vague, but don�t let that put you off. Cypher is one of the most imaginative, intelligent, and startling films you'll see this year. Brian King's clever script keeps you intrigued and off-balance, and horror maestro Natali (maker of Cube) racks up the tension. A terrific performance from Jeremy Northam as a man reluctantly discovering his own potential, Lucy Liu as a femme fatale, and some extraordinary set-pieces all bolster the sense of paranoia. The scene where Morgan finds out what really happens at those 'trade shows' is destined to become a suspense classic, and his final mission to a data repository in the desert is visually breathtaking.
   Of course, a film of this complexity is ultimately going to stand or fall on its final plot revelations; and in fairness, Cypher almost pulls it off. Its final twist is intellectually satisfying, even emotionally triumphant - but you can't help but feel slightly disappointed that some of the people you've been rooting for were neither as vulnerable nor as innocent as they seemed. However, that seems a small price to pay for the joys of this slick, startling slice of identity paranoia. A spy movie with a difference, a thriller with imagination and intelligence, it's a real must-see.
Cypher

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