Science and Hell have come together… well at least according to one of the poster taglines. The same artwork also suggests this will be mixing up the twisting cities from Doctor Strange and the destroyed buildings from any number of other blockbusters. However none of this is true. It’s not a cybernetics story either since some of the alternative marketing material seem to be mimicking Ex Machina for some reason. There isn’t even any anti-matter in the film, so we’re off to a good start. The chosen header image here showing confused looking protagonist Ana (Yaiza Figueroa) may be less eye catching, but it’s far more suitable. This is a tale of experiments gone awry but it’s more apt to describe it as a mixture of teleportation story, with a dash of hacking technobabble and a big helping of existential crisis.
The scientific jargon is where our story starts, as Ana works on her PhD studies in what seems to be an abandoned attic room rather than a real space at Oxford University. She reels off a lot of dialogue about algorithms and atoms while working on sending molecules from one place to another. How this is all done with what seems to be a Petri dish with a few electrodes stuck in it, I have no idea. There are no huge particle accelerators and no equipment to keep all of this away from delicate human tissue. It’s not a great start and it just kind of expects you to catch up with all of this after a very brief flash forward showing some of the aftermath. Too much exposition is one thing, but rushing things along is another.
The experiment requires a lot of computing memory to run, and so Ana’s lab partner Nate ( Tom Barber-Duffy) enlists the help of programmer Liv (Philippa Carson) to develop a worm that will illegally access processing power elsewhere in the country. You can tell she’s a hacker because of the facial piercings. Whether or not this really makes sense is irrelevant as the story quickly pushes on, and soon they manage to send larger objects through a newly discovered worm hole. There are no clever reveals in store for anyone wondering how the worm /worm hole connection will pay off I’m afraid. Where the particles went before they managed to send them from point A to B in the room is left unexplained. However after their game is soon discovered by IT security, and a patch from Microsoft threatens to shut everything down before they reach the vital stage – human teleportation. Ana draws the short straw and steps onto the transporter pad…
The second act — the results of the allegedly successful beaming of Ana from one spot to another — is the shakiest part of the story. The introduction wasn’t the greatest, but the meat of the story is treated as a big mystery as Ana experiences memory loss and nightmares. But the idea of lost time is probably something more appropriate to describe how the audience will feel at this stage. For something so potentially ominous and sinister, there’s a lack of focus as she tries to piece together what really happened and why her two colleagues suddenly seem so aggressive and suspicious. They really drag out the detective elements whether it makes sense or not.
For one thing, Ana can’t remember things for long unless she writes them down – but she still manages to sit in a library doing lengthy research on Alzheimer’s disease. Her philosophical musing about transporting memory and if the human soul has mass is almost engaging but it’s never the real core of the story. Sometimes it just chooses to make us feel as confused as she is instead of ramping up the potential atmosphere of paranoia when the police start to look at what happened. There’s an entire subplot about vivisection protestors which seems out of place, despite some fun animal mask moments.
It’s a real mixed bag but fortunately for those who reach it, the last section of the narrative does contain a few good moments. The reveals may not be entirely original in terms of teleportation stories, but it’s generally handled with pathos and it does a reasonable job of making up for all the loose ends. For the most part. The performances range from stiff to acceptable and overall it feels far too long with an abrupt start and a saggy middle. It needed to be more tightly wound instead of relying on the unknown so much without enough real creeping dread. However while the lost marbles imagery is a little on the nose, it’s not entirely without merit and may be worth checking out for those looking for a quick quantum mystery. Just don’t expect anything genuinely mind blowing.