Cypher review

Paranoia, suspicion, accountancy... Not words you tend to use in the same sentence - unless you're talking about an Enron-style American über-corporation. Which is why nervous, shambling bean-counter Morgan Sullivan (Jeremy Northam) jumps at the chance to escape his humdrum existence and sign up as an industrial spy for Digicorp. He grows to like his new secret identity, until he meets mysterious femme fatale Rita (Lucy Liu), who warns him it's all a lie and he's actually being brainwashed...

That's the moment a lot of people are going to tut, shrug and think: "Not that old chestnut again!" Obviously most distributors did, lodging this futuristic spin on The Manchurian Candidate in release limbo for more than a year. But stick with it and you'll find there are compensations. Northam and Liu, while not exactly fizzling with screen chemistry, bring charm and believability to their roles. And stylistically, Cube director Vincenzo Natali makes good on his first film's promise, stirring bleached, moody visuals with flashes of colour and even dropping in a sleek techno-update of the old Indiana Jones `map-shows-location' gimmick.

Shiny as they are, though, these good looks don't quite fool you into believing every twist knotted into a plot that virtually unravels half an hour before the end. Slick but never showy, Cypher initially makes for a serene, thought-provoking change from overblown blockbusters. Yet the disappointing second half is so full of conspiracy movie clichés you leave sighing at all the missed potential.

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