A triumph of imagination over budget, Cube is about as sharp and tense as they come -- especially for a psychological thriller shot in a single room, transformed into multiple rooms by a bunch of colored light filters. It's a take-notice debut from Canadian screenwriter/director Vincenzo Natali, and not only because it creeps out its audience far more than a film costing under 500,000 dollars has any business doing. In fact, with its sophisticated special effects, makeup effects, and script, it doesn't even call attention to its own underdog status. Cube is a penetrating sociological study of human hamsters in a giant maze -- how they address an unfathomable predicament, how they scrap to survive, and how they keep from cracking up, or fail in that regard. Since Natali is not afraid to tamper with the audience's expectations for certain characters, the film is truly unpredictable. Yet his script is gradual enough that none of these reversals can be considered anything so pedestrian as a "plot twist." The stakes are established early with a couple scenes of visceral gore, previewing the potential of this meat-grinding Rubik's cube. Mindful of the consequences of a misstep, the characters come to embody not only the human mind's disparate skills needed to solve such a puzzle, but also the wide range of emotions and potential reactions to it. The wild card in the equation, as if there needed to be one, is Andrew Miller's autistic man. Brilliantly, the audience isn't at first sure whether he's mentally handicapped, or reduced to spouting nonsense after years trapped inside this nightmare.