George Almore extracts his dead wife’s consciousness from a digital archive and attempts to transplant it into a lifelike android. His first attempt is a rudimentary robot with the mind of a toddler. His second attempt is slightly more sophisticated, and it has the mental age of a teenager. His third attempt has the full consciousness of his wife, and the form of a humanoid robot.
The film explores ideas around authentic experience, what constitutes a unique individual, trauma, and loss. George Almore is a modern day Frankenstein, hoping to bring his wife back from the dead. Does he have the right to bring ‘her’ back, merely to provide emotional comfort for himself?
The production qualities are reassuringly high. There are attractive drone shots of snowy landscapes (reminding me of The Shining). George Almore works in an interesting Brutalist style building. The robots and androids are well conceived, with the final one resembling something from the TV series Westworld, and, going further back, the robot of Maria in Metropolis. If you want a film about AI achieving consciousness, this seems like a missed opportunity, and 2014s Autómata has more to say.
Archive (2020) keeps the story as simple as possible. The main character is essentially alone. He could be on the surface of the moon. And there is something of Moon about this story.
The story unfolds slowly. There are similarities with Ex Machina. It uses established science fiction tropes, but it has enough sense of itself to stand on its own merit.
There are two problems with the story. The first is that we are stuck with the main character, and the script doesn’t make him particularly interesting. He’s a classic character who exists in state of grief. It feels like he needs to change gear and move into another emotional state. But the story locks him into a constant state of loss and being consumed by memories.
This is the classic ‘man who is unable to get over his ex’ story, or the coping with the aftermath of a lost relationship story (due to a partner’s death, or a divorce). It’s familiar Hollywood shorthand, there to gain the audience’s empathy for the protagonist.
The second problem is the twist at the end. This negates most of the emotional resonance that’s been built during the film, which the audience has probably bought into. This is a shame, because the twist is not worth it, and it’s hardly a surprise.
I don't want to offer too many comparisons with other films, because they might give away the twist. I guessed the twist very early on, and kept hoping that I was wrong. I continued watching the film wanting the script to subvert my expectations, but that never happened. If only the film had been a little more ambitious in that respect.