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Cypher (2002)


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Release Date: Oct 7, 2002 Wide



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Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 8,203

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Movie Info

Director Vincenzo Natali, famous for being the man behind the cult classic Cube, helms this spy thriller from the debut screenplay by writer Brian King. Jeremy Northam stars as Morgan Sullivan, a man who suddenly finds himself deeply embroiled in the fast-paced and dangerous world of corporate espionage. But it isn't until Sullivan meets a mysterious woman named Rita (Lucy Liu) that he begins to realize exactly what he's gotten himself into. Also starring David Hewlitt and Kari Matchett, Cypher

Aug 2, 2005

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All Critics (26) | Top Critics (2) | Fresh (11) | Rotten (8) | DVD (21)

Brian King's screenplay make this a fast paced science fiction adventure very much of the style of Philip K. Dick.

June 15, 2010 Full Review

Wildly ill-conceived on-screen with a droning, derivative, mind-numbing, and incredibly bad film.

April 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

A bit too clever and precious for it's own good, it's a fairly decent yet predictable near-future thriller.

June 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Scouts
Film Scouts

High style and noirish overtones about mind control and brainwashing in corporate America. Nothing new there, so nothing new here.

November 18, 2005 Full Review Source: Bangor Daily News (Maine)
Bangor Daily News (Maine)

An under-the-radar sci-fi action thriller...

October 15, 2005 Full Review

Just like the spies' mission as they hunt for secrets and significance inside massive corporate databanks, [Cypher's] point is unclear.

September 13, 2005 Full Review Source: PopMatters
PopMatters declines into high-tech gizmos, whizbang hardware, and hairbreadth escapes, leaving the brain behind for the sake of sheer, overinflated thrills.

August 9, 2005 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

It might be just another "DTV dump" title for Miramax, but I'd call Cypher (easily) one of the best direct-to-video titles I've seen all year.

August 1, 2005 Full Review Source:


July 26, 2005 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

Natali can't be bothered to fashion an actual human story around the perpetually buzzing toys and non-stop backstabbing and double-crossing.

June 19, 2004 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

combines industrial espionage with alternative reality in a satisfyingly mind-bending plot reminiscent of Philip K. Dick at his best.

October 28, 2003 Full Review Source: Movie Gazette

I liked it during the scenes when something "cool" was being revealed on screen, but the moment that "cool" ended, my interest waned.

September 16, 2003 Full Review Source:

Kind of like a whole season of Alias boiled down to a 100-minute film.

September 15, 2003
Planet Sick-Boy

Northam is perfectly cast - with every swill of scotch he transforms from shy and retiring to the debonair sophisticate he has always wanted to be.

August 28, 2003 Full Review Source: Teletext

Audience Reviews for Cypher

Director Vincenzo Natali's earlier "Cube" (1997) was a fascinating film, and that was reason enough to give "Cypher" (2002) a look.

"Cypher" makes a very intriguing start; a man named Morgan Sullivan (Jeremy Northam) is being interviewed by Digicorp's head of security and is being put through some neurological tests. He is being hired for corporate espionage and will soon be sent on missions to various conventions to secretly transmit corporate presentations for the benefit of Digicorp. He is given a new identity; that of Jack Thursby and his first assignment begins. It all seems fine in the beginning and Digicorp seems to be pleased with Sullivan's job. A chance encounter at the convention with a mysterious but beautiful stranger Rita (Lucy Liu) brings forth startling revelations and Sullivan finds that he could be caught in a deadly web of deceit amidst an ongoing cutthroat corporate war!


Revealing more would take out whatever fun there is in watching "Cypher" for it is entirely a plot-driven film and it is the turns in the plot that keep it going.

A terrific beginning doesn't always guarantee picture perfect masterpieces and "Cypher" proves just that. Further down, beneath the highly enticing exterior of brilliantly sleek cinematography, surreal camerawork and a background score that creates a sense of dread, there is great ambition that unfortunately succumbs under its own weight and finds itself settling into the comfort zone of a 'been there-done that' thriller which incorporates the essential ingredients of a typical edge-of-the-seat action/thriller.


After a promising start, the film picks up a decent amount of momentum and does build tension to a considerable extent, enough to keep you hooked throughout, in its maze of twists and turns, that sometimes catch you unawares and sometimes come across as predictable. Certain twists are just too convenient for their own good, but you find yourself excusing them as you become increasingly curious to learn where it's all going to lead. There are hi-tech contraptions and otherworldly gadgets, a glass-eyed evil looking man who has to be an antagonist by design, odd shaped choppers and underground vaults in isolated locations, to access which, you have to use some fast capsule-shaped elevators that go some several hundred feet beneath the ground! The filmmakers play with your mind. An 'alien' angle, perhaps; or just a futuristic vision of corporate security measures!? It is a very interesting representation, although an exaggerated one; maybe the intention was to make a statement about the future of the contest in the corporate world!


Brian King's screenplay and the director's vision of it, definitely draws a whole lot of inspiration from past masters. Some of the set design and the overall mood of the film quickly bring to mind, Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" (1982). Some of the thematic elements also remind you of John Frankenheimer 's masterpiece, "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962). Only those were ground-breaking films for their times and "Cypher" doesn't particularly create anything strikingly innovative. The oft-used gimmick of too many twists in the final act raise entirely new questions in an already befuddling narrative, making us rewind and think of the numerous holes that the film may have managed to riddle itself with. Employment of fast cut editing for showing some visions in the protagonists mind that may be distant memories or just random nightmares tends to strain the eyes. "Mission Impossible"-like athletic stunts and nick of time narrow escapes put a dent in the film's grave atmosphere and transport the viewer to the world of popcorn cinema for those brief moments!

Nonetheless, a very sincere and convincing lead performance by the underrated Jeremy Northam and a steady pace that doesn't let up, make for an engaging and entertaining sci-fi noir thriller. Do not expect anything earth-shattering; then perhaps it wouldn't hurt to check "Cypher" out when you have nothing better to do.

Score: 7/10

July 20, 2012
Aditya Gokhale
Aditya Gokhale

Super Reviewer

What a horrible poster! The one they had in England was much better! Anyway, don't let dodgy artwork deter you, this is a great piece of sci-fi noir. It's really stylish and good looking too, not bad considering the budget. Someone please give Mr Natali more money, most Hollywood blockbuster sci-fi films have nothing on his ideas!
April 21, 2010

Super Reviewer

Very cool cyber-spy thriller that I just chanced upon. Well worth an evening's viewing. A hi-tech industrial espionage plot with many twists and one of the coolest sci-fi vehicles (helicopter) I've ever seen.
April 15, 2009

Super Reviewer

Pulpy sci-fi espionage thriller that's so full of twists and turns you soon don't know whether you're coming or going. It often seems that the plot is unnecessarily convoluted just for the sake of appearing more clever than it really is, but Lucy Liu adds some much welcome glamour.
July 12, 2007
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

    1. Rita Foster: I don't like rings.
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