(director/writer: Gavin Rothery; cinematographer: Laurie Rose; editor: Adam Biskupski; music: Steven Price; cast: Theo James (George Almore), Stacy Martin (Jules Almore, voices for robots 2 & 3), Rhona Mitra (Simone), Peter Fernando (Tagg), Hans Peterson (Elson), Lia Williams (House, voice), Toby Jones (Vincent Sinclair), Richard Glover (Melvin); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Cora Palfrey/Phil Herd/Theo James; Vertical Entertainment; 2020-UK/Hungary/USA)
“Many changes come at the climax, and they are not all good.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An escapee from the arts department is the director Gavin Rothery, in his feature film debut. It’s a stilted indie sci-fi film set in 2038, with many cliches and plot twists as it heavily invests in an old-school robotics story even if shooting for a new story. There are many changes that come at the climax, and they are not all good.
Robot designer for a big “sovereign” corporation, George Almore (Theo James, Brit actor), is on a lonely mission in a lab located at a Japanese snow-covered tree-lined field, as the designer tries again to start-up operations of a decommissioned unheated concrete military base that’s owned by the corporation to be used for his secret mission. With him are the 2 robots he built for his company, J1 and J2, as he goes on video for a status update report to his chilly boss Simone (Rhona Mitra) on how the project is coming along. He also uses the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey” that has been turned into a casket and allows in its program for him to communicate with his dead wife, Jules (Stacy Martin).
We are clued in that each robot machine is run by an AI that matches the sophistication of the robots’ physical design, and that there are so far three stages of development for the robots-The brain inside J1 maxed out at the equivalent of a six year-old human; J2 at 15; while J3, when completed, should reach an adult-level. All design attempts try to recreate his wife Jules.
We’re told only just enough about how the system works to wet our appetite so we continue watching, as the film gets more complex as we go on and we have no idea where the story is going.
Meanwhile the designer must deal with outside forces that threaten to wreck his facility, as he designs the three robots to be sisters and is trying to pull a fast one on the company by secretly bringing his wife back to life even if it means creating Frankenstein monsters.
The film neglects scientific gravitas and ethics to shoot for how the designer emotionally deals with his loneliness (which pays homage to how the Russian great classic, “Solaris,” did it, but this film is no Solaris).
REVIEWED ON 9/7/2020 GRADE: C+