Restore Point is a Czech Philip K. Dick Styled Future Tech Thriller That Convinces in Its World Building and Philosophical Quandaries

Robert Hloz’s debut feature Restore Point (Bod Obnovy) which premiered at Karlovy Vary is the first science fiction film made in the Czech Republic for near forty years. Although it wears its Philip K Dick futuristic tech-thriller influence on its sleeve Restore Point has enough of its own personality to be a compelling and convincing glimpse into a possible world.

The year is 2041 and due to a rise in violent crime technology has been developed to revive, or restore, any person who has died an unnatural death. The restoration can only happen if the subject has had their memories backed up on a central server (hosted by the Institute) within forty-eight hours. If not, the subject will be considered to have suffered an absolute death.

Lone wolf and generally rebellious detective Em Trochinowska (Andrea Mohylová) has her personal reasons for tracking down the terrorist group ‘River of Life’ who enact executions on citizens in the name of freedom from the fear of death. A tense and brilliantly choreographed opening shows Trochinowska disobeying direct orders to save two men who have suffered absolute murder at the hands of the organisation. She interrogates a subject who mentions a mysterious ‘Florence’ and then throws himself off a building. Trochinowska finds herself getting a dressing down from her boss (which fills in her lack of being able to work as a team player) and the case falls into the hands of Europol until she is cleared of suspicion of killing the terrorist. Trochinowska does not like pulling her gun and is reluctant to kill anyone who doesn’t have a backup in place.

She gets a call about the murder of an important couple, Kristina and David Kurlstat. David was the Head of Research at the Restoration Institute. Kristina was strangled in a particularly intimate manner and laid out as if the perpetrator cared for her. Both victims didn’t have a valid restore point.

A beaded necklace leads her to a possible suspect, Vicktor Toffler (Milan Ondrík). It also leads her to an illegally restored David (Matej Hádek) whose back up existed on an outside server and is dated from six months prior. Together they must piece together the murders while dodging the Europol agent Mansfeld (Václav Neužil) who has taken control of the case and is antagonistic towards Trochinowska and sensible to the point of subservience to whatever he deems the greater good.

The Restoration Institute publicly headed by Director Rohan (Karel Dobrý) is in the midst of a privatisation bid which will see it free from bureaucratic and governmental oversight from the European Federation. The forty-eight-hour rule will be scrapped, and citizens will have more rights over the backups – or more specifically the Institute will. Hloz and screenwriters Tomislav Cecka and Zdenek Jecelin don’t do much to hide the villainous side of Rohan, and the implications of privatisation which will place the minds and lives of citizens in the hands of a company who can, at will, deny services and charge whatever they wish. A young doctor named Petra (Agáta Cervinková) makes a connection with Trochinowska trying to ease any potential discomfort the detective has with the privatisation. Due to the covered-up death of her husband, Peter (Adam Vacula) and her long mourning period, Trochinowska is far from anti extended restoration points, yet something rankles.

It isn’t long until Trochinowska and David find themselves on the run while simultaneously tracking Toffler. Somehow Toffler was able to hack into the server and plant a virus which is erasing people’s back-ups. He must be found to undo the action which could potentially mean absolute death for millions of people. Mansfield is after him too, and after David who is vital as the brains behind the Restoration Institute.

What follows is a twisty tech-thriller which might not keep you guessing as much as you’d hope but does keep you on your toes with its staging and metaphysical quandaries. Production designer Ondrej Lipensky has created a wonderfully rendered near-future world. The outside city shots of Prague are used sparingly but are convincing as a futuristic space. Cannily, a lot of the action takes place indoors, or outside the city in the older areas of Bohemia so the budget is not stretched beyond its capabilities to deliver an authentic world building experience.

The urgency of the thriller is well executed and Andrea Mohylová is an excellent lead who has to reconcile her once held beliefs with a new code of ethics. Matej Hádek as David, a man trying to understand what has happened in his life over the past six months that would lead his wife Kristina (Katarzyna Zawadzka) to betray him and his work, gives a suitably tortured and confused performance. The stand outs in supports are Milan Ondrík as Vicktor, a truth seeker who wants his day in court to expose Rohan, and Iveta Dusková as his aunt who asks the difficult philosophical questions that the audience themselves will be considering.

Restore Point is an astute and captivating piece of mid budget science fiction. The questions it raises about mortality and the greater good are part of its universal appeal – where it stutters in plot it makes up for in concept. There is also a deeply melancholy tone to the work which is added to by the recurring motif of Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ a piece of music associated with Em and Peter. As we all ponder how much corporations control our lives and how much information we freely give them, Restore Point is chilling in its implications. Who are we in life if we can avoid death? And what price would we pay for that? The questions will linger, and no answer is plotted out for the audience – just as the notion itself is one that has been persistent in science fiction since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Director: Robert Hloz

Cast: Andrea Mohylová, Matej Hádek, Milan Ondrík

Writers: Tomislav Cecka, Zdenek Jecelin

Nadine Whitney

Nadine Whitney holds qualifications in cinema, literature, cultural studies, education and design. When not writing about film, art or books, she can be found napping and missing her cat.

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