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Nothing is the latest movie from Vincenzo Natali, the man behind Cube, which has got to be one of the cleverest low budget movies that I have ever seen. Filmed on a set of just a few identical rooms that were adapted for each changing scene and with a cast of unknowns, it utilised all of the feelings of claustrophobia and tension you would get from being locked in a revolving dungeon laden with traps to make an extremely engaging thriller/horror movie. He followed it up with the clever if slightly convoluted Cypher, full of double crosses and conspiracy, and has now made a film that is largely about nothing. Is it any good?

Nothing

Film


Best friends for seventeen years, Andrew and Dave live in a house situated smack under the middle of two multi-lane underpasses. Andrew is largely agoraphobic and has some serious social anxiety disorders that result in his never leaving the house and running an internet travel job from home. Dave lives rent-free at Andrew's house and in return is his key to the outside world, which Dave supposedly happily resides in, with a full-time job and even a girlfriend. The reality is that they are both social outcasts, which Dave finds out the hard way one day when he decides to move out to be with his girlfriend and leave Andrew behind.

Slowly their lives begin to fall apart and, before long, they are both left holed up back in the house, with construction workers outside ready to demolish it, police rapping at the door ready to do a raid, and simply no escape for them. Just as their world is about to collapse in on them, they see a white light and - all of a sudden - everything is calm. Andrew and Dave are once again alone in their house, undisturbed by the police, the construction workers or anybody else. In fact, undisturbed by anything at all, for when they open their door they find that the house stands alone in a big vacuum of nothingness. Hence the title.

Nothing

Vincenzo Natali has taken yet another clever concept and moulded it into an interesting drama that expands off in a new direction every time you think they have worn the ideas out. Twists and turns pop up when you least expect and the end result is an engaging way to spend an hour-and-a-half of your time. Unfortunately, it does not quite hold up alongside his other projects. Perhaps if this had been his debut, with Cube as a follow-up and Cypher as he glossy eldest brother but Nothing just looks like a big step down. Having none of that threat of impending doom of either of those other films, it is the closest Natali has come to comedy and he is certainly not as adept at that as he is at doing thrillers.

I'm not sure whether his choice of lead stars was wholly appropriate either. David Hewlett (who was in both Cube and Cypher, but in much less significant roles) and Andrew Miller (who also co-wrote it) are apparently best friends from childhood, just like the characters they are supposed to be playing, but sometimes not having to act very much is not the most helpful thing. These two fluctuate between mucking around like geeky best friends and becoming ludicrously vengeful towards one another, normally over absolutely nothing. It is occasionally jarring because the audience does not know whether to laugh with them, laugh at them or even laugh at all.

Nothing

With a director clearly capable of so much, whose debut was so startling and yet so simple in its concept, I could not help but feel a little disappointed with this latest effort. Fans of the Hitchhiker's Guide or Monty Python will appreciate a little bit of the humour and followers of Natali's previous work will recognise his style but just do not expect this to be a step up either in terms of size, style or content. After all, nothing comes of nothing.

Video


Nothing is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio non-anamorphic widescreen transfer that is not great unfortunately. I think that the problem lies in the budget or filming techniques rather than the transfer itself but the detail is lacking, there is overwhelming softness throughout and noticeable edge enhancement. Thankfully there is little grain to speak of, one of the few plus-points to this presentation. The colour scheme is also quite broad and imaginative, despite the predominance of bright white from about a third of the way onwards. Understandably blacks and shadowing are of minor importance but are perfectly fine if unexceptional. Overall the transfer is not much to write home about but, given the substance and nature of this low budget, small-scale production, the picture quality seldom interferes with your viewing pleasure.

Nothing

Audio


The main track is quite a punchy Dolby Digital 5.1 effort that has keen observation of the dialogue, some interesting ambient side effects, and showcases good directionality despite its obvious budgetary limitations. With little score to speak of (there are a few musical interludes) it is understandable, if a little disappointing, that they did not invest in a more powerful effort. As is, with little discernible bass and not enough effects or score music this is a limply engaging track that is simply nothing particularly special.

Extras


All I received on my preview disc was the theatrical trailer, which paints the movie in a much darker way than it really is. The final version will supposedly have a commentary, a making-of featurette and more trailers.

Nothing

Overall


Nothing is in inventive little movie that has spawned from the mind of Cube's genius, Vincenzo Natali. Despite being nothing particularly special, it is still an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, displaying some of the innovation that made Cube so popular but offering none of the thrills, unfortunately. I can understand why this is only receiving a DVD release, but even given its small scale the final disc is supposed to be quite good. As far as preview discs go, the non-anamorphic transfer and average soundtrack are a little disappointing. Fans of Natali or either of the minor stars should give this a rental to see if it is worth adding to their collection.


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