Archive (2020) – Film Review

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Writer-director Gavin Rothery’s Archive is one of the most visually stunning debuts of the year.

2038: George Almore is working on a true human-equivalent AI. His latest prototype is almost ready. This sensitive phase is also the riskiest. Especially as he has a goal that must be hidden at all costs: being reunited with his dead wife.

Just like George’s robots, where each new model is building on what has gone before, Archive‘s draws from other science fiction films and series like Ex_Machina, Ghost In The Shell and Black Mirror.

One would argue that the science fiction genre, ever since its invention with Frankenstein, is very similar to a computer. Every laptop contains the same essential elements. It is how the manufacturer works with and assembles those elements that can result in something fresh and new. Just like Dr. Frankenstein.

The plot certainly has elements of Bride of Frankenstein as Theo James’s George seeks to bring his wife back from the dead. Transferring her consciousness from an Archive unit to a A.I. humanoid.

The plot travels down a well worn path as the robot built to house the wife seeks to have her own existence. What throws a welcome curve to the journey is the previous model who is now deemed obsolete and grows increasingly jealous of her replacement. Threatening to compromise the whole project.

Stacy Martin is excellent in the triple role of Jules, robot J3 and the voice of J2. Her vocal performance embodies the cruder model with a real personality generating a genuine sense of empathy from the audience.

Rothery was the conceptual designer on Duncan Jones’s Moon and Archive highlights just how important his contribution was to that modern sci-fi classic. The corridors of the base where George works echo the Sarang station and the ARM company logo makes the film feel as if it could be a distant cousin or even set within the Moon-iverse.

The production design is outstanding with a welcome predisposition for practical sets and effects. Only using CGI where absolutely necessary to enchance the visual storytelling.

Rothery has also surrounded himself with an incredible crew. Featuring a score by Oscar-winner Steven Price (Gravity) and Director of Photography Laurie Rose. The long-time Ben Wheatley collaborator delivers some stunning cinematography as crisp as the winter air outside the base. This is easily the best-looking science fiction film of 2021… at leats until Dune.

All of this keeps the audience engaged as the story progresses to a climax that manages to out Black Mirror Black Mirror.

Archive is definitely a film that one will want to store away in their memory banks because Gavin Rothery is a filmmaker that has a fantastic career ahead of him based on this impressive calling card.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Archive is available on VOD from Monday 18 January.

Director: Gavin Rothery
Stars: Theo James, Stacy Martin, Rhona Mitra, Toby Jones
Runtime: 106 minutes
Country: UK

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