Cypher (2002)

Country: United States / Canada
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Starring: Jeremy Northam, Lucy Liu, Nigel Bennett
Writer: Brian King
Music: Michael Andrews
AKA: Brainstorm

A film like Cypher is almost impossible to describe in a few short paragraphs – in fact discussing the style, plot twists and machinations, and underlying themes could fill a small book. The film is a slightly futuristic high-tech thriller, that while being totally spy – in some ways, in the Best Bondian tradition – is a complete ‘mind f*ck’. Furthermore, I challenge anybody going in cold, to predict where the story is heading.

Morgan Sullivan (Jeremy Northam) is a normal guy trapped in a dull passionless marriage. He dreams of a better, more adventurous life, and applies to a company named Digicorp to become a corporate spy. After a thorough assessment regime, he is accepted, and assumes the identity of a man named Jack Thursby. Thursby is everything that Sullivan is not, but wishes to be. He drinks single malt whiskey, smokes exclusive cigarettes, and tell tales of exotic world travel. And naturally, he is also a ladies man; the object of his desire is a mysterious lady named Rita Foster (Lucy Liu).

However Sullivan’s top secret missions don’t appear to be too exciting. He is shunted across the United States to attend various mind numbing sales seminars where he is required to record the sales pitch and relay the signal back to headquarters. Seminar after seminar, Sullivan continues to make recordings and send them back, but slowly he is losing his sense of identity. The Morgan Sullivan persona seems to diminish, and the Jack Thursby persona begins to take over.

For those who like comparisons, the film is a cross between Total Recall (with bad, bad Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Goldeneye, and it is a film that presages Christopher Nolan’s Inception. If you haven’t seen this one, it’s well worth your time.

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