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Human consciousness is one mystifying wonder of the universe that science has yet to explain. Are we more than genetic code, neurons and memories? Is there a conscious core to our very being that lives on after we shed these mortal coils? Filmmaker Gavin Rothery’s Black Mirror-esque directorial debut, Archive, explores this possibility using sci-fi robotics to tell a bewildering arthouse tale of tragedy and redemption.

J2

Set in the distant future, Archive takes place during a time when scientists are beginning to understand the quantifiable differences between memory, intelligence and human consciousness. Utilizing new technology in early analog stages of development, roboticist George Almore (Theo James: Divergent 2014) is able to communicate with some rendition of his deceased wife Jules (Stacy Martin: High-Rise 2015). Though unclear as to how much of this digitally stored data is computer algorithm, memory and consciousness, George works endlessly to use this tech in developing the first human equivalent artificial intelligence.

With only his first two AI prototypes, J1 and J2, to keep him company at a remote laboratory base, George makes significant progress with his third AI attempt he names J3. The progress made by the roboticist becomes more apparent when he activates J3 who lets out a shrilling scream of panic as if just being woken from a deep sleep. Powering her down, George realizes J3 needs more work before he can complete the final stages and successfully be reunited with Jules … an end goal that must be kept from his employer at all cost.

Tackling the complexity of human consciousness, Rothery effectively uses robotics to demonstrate cognitive development interwoven into a well-written story of loss, jealousy, secrecy and grief. James brings heartfelt determination to his role as George fielding video calls from his nagging boss, Simone (Rhona Mitra: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans 2009), and troubleshooting suspicious obstacles to ensure secrecy of his research. Adding a multi-layer of emotional nuance, Martin voices J2 while portraying J3 and Jules truly displaying distinct differences between early AI, life-like AI and what it means to be human.

Theo James as George observes his third AI prototype J3
Stacy Martin as Jules

Developing multiple character arcs through flashbacks, dreams sequences and dramatic moments, you can’t help but feel for Jules, George and the AI prototypes. Unexpected emotions are evoked as J2 struggles with the prospect of being disregarded and forgotten in the shadow of J3. And the plot thickens when traumatic memories of the past come to light. As truths are revealed and a countdown begins, emotions run high when irreversible decisions must be made. Archive proceeds to unravel with an unexpected turn of events and a plot twist that will leave you stunned.

Aside from a few dull uneventful moments, this intriguing sci-fi feature explores human thoughts, desires and behavior in ways that are perfect for those fascinated with human consciousness. While far from an extravagant Hollywood sci-fi flick, Archive is an emotional thought provoking whirlwind with an ending that’s sure to pull on your heart strings. Tech fanatics intrigued by AI and human consciousness can now see this practical, yet futuristic, feature available on VOD, including Vudu and Amazon Prime.

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Brandon Long
Brandon Long
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