In the near future year 2038, scientist George Almore is working in a remote outpost base that he has been tasked with decommissioning. He receives a somewhat staticy video call from his wife, letting him know she misses him. However the call turns out not to have come from a living human being. George recorded his wife’s memories and brain functions prior to her death and she is speaking to him from a gradually deteriorating computer archive that is storing her consciousness. During this period of isolation, George has been building prototype robot companions with the goal of making a final lifelike model in which he can implant his wife’s consciousness, effectively bringing her back to life. He has to do this discreetly, though, lest his employers and the company that owns the Archive technology get wind of what he’s up to.
Archive is the debut film from Writer/Director Gavin Rothery. Rothery previously worked in the Art Department for the 2009 feature Moon, and the experience he brings to the table is on full display. Archive has the look and feel of a production many times its budget. It not only looks impressive but is put together in a way that flows organically from one scene to another. The acting is top notch and the story engaging. The emotion and sense of yearning, while maybe not as poignant as the similarly themed Ex Machina, still manages to come through and leave a lingering impression after the movie is over.
Where this film is likely to divide people will be in its ending, and it will be interesting to see how that winds up being received. For myself I had the misfortune of managing to guess early on what that end was going to be, so when it did come about the impact was twofold. One was the letdown of it being the ending I thought it might be, instead of something that came as a genuine surprise. More significantly though, is it was an ending that effectively invalidated the entire movie leading up to it. It’s one thing to pull that sort of a twist at the end of a half hour Twilight Zone episode, quite another when you’ve invested your audience in a two hour running time.
On the whole I still have to admire the effort and craftsmanship that went into making Archive. It effectively builds its world, meditates on the nature of memory and loss, and raises questions about technology and existence. The film takes entirely too long, however, building up to the ending it leads up to and, in ending the way it does, invalidates much of the world it creates. I’ll be eagerly awaiting to see what Rothery does next, but the conclusion of this film made the experience a bit of a letdown for me.
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.
Starring: Theo James, Stacy Martin , Rhona Mitra, Toby Jones
Written and Directed by: Gavin Rothery
Archive has the look and feel of a production many times its budget. It not only looks impressive but is put together in a way that flows organically from one scene to another. The acting is top notch and the story engaging. The emotion and sense of yearning, while maybe not as poignant as the similarly themed Ex Machina, still manages to come through and leave a lingering impression after the movie is over.