In the film Archive, George Almore attempts to put his late wife’s memories into a machine. The project is far from a roaring success, finds Jon O’Brien
8 July 2020
J3 is George Almore’s third robotic attempt to resurrect his late wife
Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
Available on demand from 10 July
“HE WHO remains passive when overwhelmed with grief loses his best chance of recovering elasticity of mind,” Charles Darwin once wrote.
Passiveness certainly isn’t a trait that can be attributed to Archive‘s leading man George Almore (Theo James). He is a bereaved researcher secretly attempting to resurrect his wife, played by Stacy Martin, using analogue memories and robotics.
We meet George in 2038, two years and two prototypes into his mission. He has produced J1, a boxy, WALL-E-esque figure that is slightly rigid and watches vintage cartoons, and V2, its more advanced “sister” with a jealous streak.
Holed up in an isolated facility deep in the heart of Japan’s snow-capped Yamanashi prefecture, George must care for these specimens of “deep-tiered machine learning and artificial intelligence” while keeping his project a secret.
Having lived through the road accident that killed his beloved, Almore cuts an enigmatic yet often sympathetic figure. He has genuine compassion for the robots, all too aware they are essentially failed experiments. And there is a palpable survivor’s guilt driving his mission.
Though the film is very much about Almore, there are other good characters too. Take the hard-nosed, hologrammed vice president (Rhona Mitra), for example, who is threatening to withdraw funding from the project providing Almore’s cover. There’s also Toby Jones’s inquisitive company representative, who suspects that the 200 hours of posthumous conversation data from Almore’s wife is being misused. Oh, and let’s not forget the gun-toting risk-assessor, played by Peter Ferdinando.
“Almore has genuine compassion for the robots, all too aware they are essentially failed experiments”
The film will inevitably be compared with an episode of Black Mirror called “Be Right Back”, in which a widow revives her partner, who died in a car crash, using a mail-ordered digital consciousness.
Archive, however, focuses just as much on the mechanics behind the concept as its implications. Version 3.0 of Almore’s robot wife turns out to be difficult for him to control. Her construction from confused, disembodied head and torso to fully realised ghost-white being is also remarkable, and sometimes very disturbing to observe.
This is a feature-length debut for writer and director Gavin Rothery. His only previous sci-fi work was a 2014 short called The Last Man, in which a soldier is awoken into a war-ravaged world. Rothery also supervised the visual effects on Moon, including parts of the eerie mining facility that the film is set in.
While it doesn’t quite hit all of the heights that it could, Archive is an entertaining watch. Its clever ruminations on free will, grief and immortality provide an immersive and visceral experience – one that, like its protagonist, is anything but passive.
More on these topics: