Directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Scientist William Foster is on the verge of a biotech breakthrough. Working for a company called Bionyne, Foster and his team are attempting to transplant human consciousness into robots but their latest experiment results in failure when the robot destroys itself minutes after going online for the first time.
When his family die in a horrific car crash, Foster decides to capture their memories in the hope to ‘bring them back’ with help from his lab assistant Ed, a man who has perfected the science of cloning albeit only with animals. Hiding the truth about the death of his family from the outside world, Foster risks his career and life in a one-chance-only attempt to bring back his wife and children.
Sci-fi flick REPLICAS is one of those movies that looks interesting on paper but in reality doesn’t quite work as well as you’d hope. The problem here isn’t really the science but the way in which the character of William Foster acts and how the story unfolds. With certain scenes setting up Foster’s not-so-difficult choice to bring back his dead family, even though minutes earlier we see his wife lecture him on how he shouldn’t play around with life in this way, none of it really comes as a surprise when it’s presented on screen. A complex task of cloning humans, despite having never done it before, is suddenly made simple to the point it can be recreated in a basement with a couple of dozen stolen car batteries used as backup power; it’s things like that that leaves a somewhat unsavoury taste. There’s many instances of this in the film and you really have to give up all sense of logic to be able to enjoy the film and treat it as a loose fantasy sci-fi instead.
Keanu Reeves, though often a bit stiff, plays the role of William Foster as well as he can do, given the script. Though his character isn’t really given much chance to grieve as he jumps pretty much straight into Project “Let’s Make The Foster Family MkII”, there are times when he conveys the pain of loss. I only wish that the film would have explored the deaths and the moral implications from a human angle more instead of rushing to commit to the actual experiment of transplanting consciousness without so much as a second thought. As a husband and father, it felt wrong that his character should be so selfish but even then, the character of Ed Whittle, played brilliantly by Thomas Middleditch, is quick to ditch his initial moral instincts and go ahead with the plan too.
The bulk of the film questions whether Foster’s plan will work and if it does, will his cloned family be 100%? Not only that, will his employer Bionyne and his boss, the demanding corporate Jones, discover what he’s been doing considering he’s ‘borrowed’ millions of dollars worth of equipment and is currently storing it in his basement. With his experiments at work failing yet his home tests potentially a success, what would his family’s lives be worth to a company that hold that technology so dearly?
As a science fiction thriller, REPLICAS falls a little flat. There’s too many holes, from both a plot and character viewpoint, along with the fact that the film succeeds more as a comedy rather than a tense sci-fi. An example of this is when Foster attempts to address the friends, co-workers and associates of his deceased family of their absence and he starts to pose as them, especially to his daughter’s friends. Even a visit by the local cops is quite lighthearted with Foster seemingly able to lie through his back teeth with very little effort. The ease of which Foster is able to adopt this mindset just doesn’t sit right with me in what is meant to be seen as a sci-fi film. The only thing it does seem to do well is the CGI for the technology which Foster uses at the facility which reminds me a lot of that seen in Minority Report.
REPLICAS is an interesting idea that unfortunately never really gets off the ground, leaving a hollow shell of a movie.