Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Fantasia ’23: Restore Point

In the future, you still must pay your taxes. Death is a different matter—depending on the circumstances. A quasi-government agency can resurrect anyone who dies an untimely death, as long as they digitally backed themselves up within the last forty-eight hours. Legally, they cannot use a file more than two days old. There are practical scientific reasons for that, but they will be violated anyway in Robert Hloz’s Restore Point, which had its world premiere at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.

Nobody dies, if they take reasonable precautions. However, there are those who feel taking so much risk out of life devalues the experience of living, somewhat like in Tony Aloupis’s better-than-you-might-think
I am Mortal. Police detective Em Trochinowska has a bone to pick with them, particularly the terrorist group River of Life. They killed her husband, after holding him past the forty-eight-hour mark.

Apparently, they also just murdered the scientific director of Restore Point, David Kurlstat, and his wife, after sabotaging their back-ups. However, Trochinowska unexpectedly gets the benefit of Kurlstat’s technical expertise when she discovers Restore Point illegally revived the scientist with a six-month-old bootleg. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a mind-body disconnect, which makes the new imperfect copy twitchy and nauseous.

It has been a while since there was a new Czech science fiction film, even though the Czechoslovakian film industry released many moody sf classics in the 1950s and 1960s, such as
Ikarie XB-1. In some ways, the dystopian Restore Point very much feels like a throwback to that era. Hloz’s future urbanscape is particularly impressive, taking design-inspiration from the real-life postmodern structures of Shanghai and Dubai.

Restore Point
looks amazing and maintains the logic of its speculative “Restore Point” science. Unfortunately, the “mystery” elements of Tomislav Cecka & Zdenek Jecelin’s screenplay are much less inspired. Any reasonably bright twelve-year-old should be able to guess who did what.

Still, the premise is intriguing, both in terms of its scientific and sociological implications. Andrea Mohylova is terrific as Trochinowska and Matej Hadek is appropriately ambiguous, in weird and unpredictable ways. The sf is good, but the politics are a little iffier. Restore Point literally brings people back from the dead, but it still serves as the film’s source of villainous shenanigans. Seriously, they cannot even get credit for curing death. Recommended anyway for speculative science and an incredible near future environment,
Restore Point had its North American premiere at the 2023 Fantasia.