THE COMPLEX (2020)
Directed by Paul Raschid
Written by Lynn Renee Maxcy (The Handmaid’s Tale TV Series)
Have you ever watched a movie and thought “I’d do something different” than what a character chooses to do on-screen? What if the power was in your hands to affect the outcome? Following in the footsteps of Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch and their very own Last Shift, amongst others, Wales Interactive’s latest effort is an interactive cinematic experience where YOU decide how certain events go down.
Wales Interactive propels viewers into their sci-fi thriller, THE COMPLEX, a chilling tale of an impending pathogen outbreak, presenting moral and ethical dilemmas which you can decide how to to react on. Played on PC or on consoles, the FMV plays out very much like a film whilst occasionally throwing up multiple choices onto the screen for you to react to. These choices have time limits on as default so if you don’t make up your mind on time, the AI will choose for you. There is an ability to turn off the time limits in the settings, which may be useful if you’re doing an interactive Let’s Play online and want your channel’s audience to participate in the choices, but if you’re playing this yourself or with your family, I’d advise on keeping the time limit on. After all, this is a story where choices have to be made in the moment in a scenario where time is definitely not on your side and the limits add to this heart-in-your-mouth experience.
THE COMPLEX opens up like any other sort of movie, and introduces you to two of its characters before thrusting you to make a choice about people you know very little about. The story isn’t shy on delivering the difficult choices and soon you get a feel for what this interactive movie requires of you; quick choices, made either with the head or the heart. You can play it your way, be it empathetic, clever or narcissistic. The choices you make will affect the scenarios played out on screen, some in a minor way and others with a greater impact. Throughout the running time, your choices are logged with a report presented at the end with statistics based on your selections. How will you do?
The cast that has been assembled for THE COMPLEX are excellent with Michelle Mylett (AntiSocial) taking the lead as Dr. Amy Tenant, a young pioneering doctor who’s nanotech cells could be the non-surgical cure for ailments and injuries succumbed to in remote environments, such as astronauts in space who are unable to gain access to full medical services. With a race on to see who can develop the tech first, Tenant’s employer Nathalie Kensington (a tremendous Kate Dickie (Prometheus)) is keen to acquire financial backing so that work can steam ahead on human testing. However, when Clare (Kim Adis), a Kensington Corp intern, falls ill on the tube, it becomes apparent that the nanotech has received its first human host, but, rather than one dose, all of the master batch of Nanotech has entered her body. With the master batch the only sample available of the Nanotech, Nathalie Kensington puts pressure on Dr Tenant to extract blood containing the Nanotech cells and the all-important research from fear of having to spend years developing it once again, but in doing so Clare will most certainly die. But how did Clare end up with the Nanotech inside her body when she didn’t have clearance to access the lab? Why did she do it? What did she want it for? And who is she working with? These are all questions that Amy, Nathalie and Amy’s old colleague, Rees Wakefield (Al Weaver), must discover.
One of THE COMPLEX‘s biggest strengths is that it plays upon your heart strings. Throughout the film, you build relationships with these people through the interactions and footage, such as the relationship between Tenant and Wakefield. In the opening scenes, we see dedicated Tenant and wise-cracking Wakefield working with each other trying to save the lives of chemical weapon victims. Wakefield’s choices come to bite him in the arse the next time the duo meet at K-Corp 5 years down the line and Tenant isn’t going to let him forget about abandoning her without so much as a peep. Various prompts appear on the screen relating to their trust in each other and parts of their relationship, which will test your perception to how things were, are and should be between them. In one of the opening scenes, we see the duo getting dressed into safety suits and you are given the option of sneaking a peek at Wakefield in his underwear which suggests there could be a romantic history to the pair but, based on events what went down prior, I decided that Tenant should avert her eyes. Would this affect the storyline? Maybe not, but some other scenarios definitely do have an effect on how the story pans out and ultimately the movie will present you with a certain ending dependent on your choices.
After the credits roll, the game serves up Personality and Relationship stats, showing a rating out of 100 for various attributes such as Bravery and Curiosity whilst percentages, alongside images of the various characters, detail your relationship with the characters throughout the film. On my first run, I got scored as an Extrovert and that, I would say, nails me down to a T. As I played it honestly, the outcome was an accurate reflection of the choices I made. I wouldn’t mind watching the film again and selecting different options, possibly completely opposite to what I would natural choose, or may be just slightly different options where it was a tough call between available choices, just to see what different outcomes there are. With 8 different endings, this 90 minute interactive film has plenty to offer in terms of replayability with a tension-filled, engaging storyline that keeps you locked into the events on-screen and leaves you on the edge of your seat.
Perhaps this slice of fiction is a little too close to home for some people, considering we’re in the middle of a current pandemic with the country on lockdown, but then again, it seems like Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film Contagion has seen a curious revival at this time, so THE COMPLEX may well indeed pique your interest too. Regardless of current events, THE COMPLEX is well worth your time and could be a signal for other filmmakers and storytellers to give us the option to forge our own paths in their stories in the future.