Cube Ending Explained – Does anyone escape the deadly maze?

Cube Plot Summary

Cube is an indie sci-fi horror with a twist. Made on a shoestring budget and directed by Vincenzo Natali, this cleverly written movie follows a group of strangers who awaken to find themselves in a strange maze. With traps all around them in different interconnected cube-shaped rooms, the men and women are forced to try and coexist to survive and, hopefully, escape. But with no water or food to speak of, and those aforementioned traps too, will they make it in time?

Who is the first to die?

During the movie’s shocking and gruesome opening, a character called Alderson wakes up and begins exploring the structure. He stumbles into a room rigged with a deadly wire grid, that slices him into small cubes. With sickening sound of flesh slapping the floor, the cubes fall and kill the guy outright. It’s a shocking opener and something that ultimately serves as the prelude to more frightening revelations later on down the line.

What happens to Quentin?

One of the more fascinating characters in the movie is Quentin. A divorced cop with three kids, Quentin begins as the most level-headed member of the group and takes on the role of leader, managing to calm everyone down and also being one to test some of the new rooms.

As the film progresses, he slowly starts to become more and more unhinged and controlling. Around the same time, a mathematics student, Leaven, comes out of her shell and realizes that the numbers along each of the cubed rooms are a crucial clue to figuring a way out of this.

She initially believes the numbering system points to which rooms are full of traps. That’s probably just as well because their earlier plan for using an old boot is quickly thrown out when one among them, Rennes, succumbs to a deadly acid trap.

All of this teamwork is seriously tested when a new member of the group joins partway through the film, an autistic genius called Kazan. He gets under Quentin’s skin and his role of leader is threatened. It’s also worth noting that at this point no one is aware of Kazan’s genius and they see him as a hindrance to their plans to break out.

Harking back to the themes of the movie about humanity and our own perceptions on life, the only one among them that shows an ounce of genuine empathy toward him is Holloway, who stands up to Quentin’s increasingly hostile and impatient behaviour. When they all make it to the edge of the Cube, Quentin sees Holloway as a threat and ultimately allows her to fall into the void.

The others are shocked but Quentin justifies his fact by claiming that she’s in on the whole thing as she knows too much about Quentin. In reality, he’s starting to crack and his paranoia, potentially stoked by PTSD from working as a cop for so long, becomes his own worst enemy.

What secret is Worth hiding?

As we soon learn, David Worth, one of the more cynical members of the group, was actually tasked with creating parts of the outer shell for the Cube prior to being thrown in here. This knowledge only angers Quentin further, especially when he learns that the dimensions of this cube is 26 by 26 by 26. And that, unfortunately, results in a grand total of about 17,576 rooms, and god knows how many of those full of traps.

Worth only knows about the outer shell and not much else, and as a result, this heightens the general feel of paranoia and confusion that the movie does so well to reinforce.

Holloway believes this tight-knit way of working makes sure that the “left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.” and that would imply that there’s a whole bunch of people involved in the creation of the Cube, each working on a tiny part without knowing the grand, overarching plan.

What do the numbers tell us about the Cube?

Leaven isn’t the only mathematician inside the cube. In a lovely little twist, it turns out Kazan is actually a genius and his math dwarves that of Leaven, who struggles to balance all those big numbers in her head. Kazan can do what Leaven does and more, crunching huge numbers but doing so in a fraction of the time inside his head.

The mood toward Kazan instantly changes once they all learn this, with Leaven and Worth growing much more forgiving and patient with him. Together, they figure out the true combination of what these numbers mean and work out which rooms are safe and which are booby trapped.

When they show up in the same room Rennes died in, and realize it’s right at the edge of the Cube, Leaven figures out that the rooms are moving around, potentially in a repeated cycle, and theorizes that there’s a “bridge room” which will connect to the outer shell and let them escape. This comes from a room with the number 27, which should be impossible given we know the dimensions (information gained thanks to Worth) only go up to 26.

However, in order to further crunch the numbers, she needs to use Cartesian coordinates, which allows her to plot their position within the Cube. In essence, she can figure out where they are, which direction they need to go and, more importantly, how much time they have to go until the rooms move again.

Leaven and the others efficiently move through the Cube towards what they believe to be the exit. All the pieces come together, and everything builds to a very climactic ending.

Where is the Bridge Room?

In a cruel sense of irony, Leaven figures out that the bridge room is actually the white room most of them woke up from. For a short time, this room will allow them to exit before returning to the Cube and rotating through the entire mechanism again for who knows how long. The characters are shocked to learn had they just stayed put, they would have got out. But of course, this leads into the movie’s ironic themes about humanity and how really, we are our own worst enemy.

As human beings we have to “fix” a problem and look for solutions, and whoever designed this Cube clearly has intimate knowledge of how our brains work. The further ironic kicker is that everyone in the group had the keys needed to work together much earlier. They could have found their way out and prevented lots of needless suffering. But just like the original white room, we’ll cycle back to this shortly!

Unfortunately, now that Quentin has all the information he needs, he becomes more controlling and demands the group work faster to get him out. Believing that he could betray them all, the group trap Quentin in an adjacent room and scramble toward the exit. Leaven leads the group toward the room at the edge of the Cube, and now they’re forced to wait until the bridge room thunders next to them, then they can hop aboard and head home.

How does Cube end?

Finally, the room arrives and they make it to the final area. Worth hesitates for a moment and unfortunately, during this crucial moment, Quentin sneaks back in and impales Leaven through the chest. He then stabs Worth and turns toward Kazan. Kazan jumps out into the blinding white light but as Quentin looks set to follow, Worth grabs hold of Quentin just as the room shifts. Quentin dies a gruesome death caught between the rooms.

Out of all the people inside the Cube, it’s Kazan who ends up escaping. Of course, he won’t be able to tell anyone about the Cube, meaning this Cube structure will just continue on like before.

What’s particularly ironic here is how Cube manages to subvert expectations on every character and in the end, it’s the one we all thought was least likely to survive who ends up doing just that. Similarly, us rooting for Quentin early on turns to horror when we learn what he’s really like.

The cruel irony of humanity’s need for answers

The real kicker with Cube is just how easily it could have been for everyone to escape without any deaths (minus Alderson). Each of the group had a special trait or skill that would have proven instrumental to getting out sooner, had they all just worked together and kept a level-head.

Quentin starts as level-headed and actually does a good job of keeping the group calm and together. Had he continued this path, he could have perhaps prevented everyone from turning on each other. Unfortunately, when he loses control, falling pray to his unhinged and paranoia demeanour, it has a trickle effect to everyone else in the group, who each begin to bicker and lose hope and patience.

Of course, all of this is only exacerbated by the fact that everyone is dehydrated and starving, and no amount of button sucking to get the saliva glands working is going to stop that. There’s also an air of futility hanging over large swathes of this film too, typified by Worth saying at one point: “There is no conspiracy. No one is in charge. It’s a headless blunder operating under the illusion of a master plan.”

Trying to find the “whys” for the situation these guys are in ultimately proves fruitless, as by the end no one is any wiser to what this Cube is and why it exists. And those questions of “why” and trying to find answers, ultimately plays into that very nature of what it means to be human.

Since the early days of humanity, where we looked to the stars and began questioning why we’re on this planet, Homo sapiens have been obsessed with finding answers. And Cube serves as the perfect dark, cautionary tale as to what happens when our questions consume our very essence, as we become obsessed with answers, ultimately ending in our own destruction.

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