Review by Sean Boelman
The feature debut of writer-director Gavin Rothery, who is previously known for his work in visual effects, Archive is an intriguing new high-concept sci-fi flick. And while the story does lean on tropes a bit too often to be particularly memorable, the effective use of atmosphere makes it worth watching.
The film tells the story of a scientist who is working on an artificial intelligence system in an attempt to reunite with his dead wife in any form. There have been multiple movies that do this same “scientist driven mad by love” premise, and more effectively, but Rothery’s clear understanding of how to build a sci-fi world makes the film very appealing.
Visually, the movie will be very reminiscent to viewers of the generally well-liked minimalistic genre picture Moon, which is almost fitting given the fact that Rothery worked on that film. For the most part, the set design and use of props is very immersive, apart from a handful of CGI-heavy scenes that don’t quite work.
One of the movie’s biggest weaknesses is that it doesn’t do a great job of developing its main characters. Unfortunately, the supporting characters (namely the prior generations of the protagonist’s prototypes) are far more compelling than the protagonist or his computerized co-lead.
That said, Theo James does a surprisingly solid job in his lead role, bringing a lot of emotion to a character that is otherwise pretty flat. His co-star Stacy Martin is fine in her supporting role, but her performance feels much too similar to other versions of the “AI that grows a soul” archetype.
At an hour and forty-nine minutes, the film runs a bit longer than it needs to, especially with the romantic aspects of the story. The main conflict of the movie doesn’t really kick in until the final act, and while this portion is moderately exciting, it isn’t quite enough to justify the meandering first two-thirds.
The movie also fails to cover much new thematic ground in regards to its ideas about artificial intelligence and the computerization of society. There are a few moments that show the promise the film had to be an ethical case study about the ethics of its theoretical processes, but Rothery seems too preoccupied with making a popcorn flick to dive deeply into these issues.
Archive is serviceable sci-fi, and while it aims a lot higher than it hits, it manages to be mostly well-done, if unexceptional. Regardless, fans of the genre will likely appreciate the stroll through familiar territory.
Archive hits VOD on July 10.