Dealing with all things existential Archive is a sci-fi that while lacking in originality possesses a great deal of heart. Those familiar with films like Blade Runner, AI: Artificial Intelligence and perhaps most pertinently Duncan Jones’ Moon will feel on familiar ground.
Moon being of significance because Archive writer-director Gavin Rothery was a key part in the visual design of that film. That same aesthetic is present in Archive but in many ways Rothery elevates through sheer will rather than budget.
Archive follows George (Theo James) a robotics pioneer living in an isolated research centre. Think Ex_Machina’s Icelandic vistas with a less Apple more Aliens edge to it. Working on a new design of robot it becomes clear he is mourning the loss of his wife Jules (Stacy Martin). But with George’s latest creation and the ability to transfer memory into the titular device, is Jules really gone and if she isn’t, is she still her?
There are times when Archive drifts a little, spending too much time trying to keep its mystery guarded while simultaneously telegraphing it. The irony being the end has very little to do with the obvious twists and turns it conjures to leave you with something altogether more potent.
Thematically the idea of memory and whether what makes us human is defined by how we perceive ourselves has been done countless times and Archive never pushes that envelope. But it does mark Rothery out as a filmmaker of interest in the way he juggles narrative, character and concept.
His at times Dr. Who visual effects are rarely anything but a bit kitsch but from time to time he delves into Chris Cunningham levels of immersive, dystopian sci-fi future-gazing.
Diet Ex_Machina if you will but Archive is nonetheless a film that is brimming with heart and an inventiveness in its simplicity that allows it to become a thought-provoking if slightly confused allegory for what it is to be human. File Archive director Rothery under ‘one to watch’.