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Fantasia 2023: Restore Point Review

July 24, 2023 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Restore Point Image Credit: Fantasia IFF
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Fantasia 2023: Restore Point Review  

Directed by: Robert Hloz
Written by: Robert Hloz, Tomislav Čečka & Zdeněk Jecelín

Andrea Mohylová – Em Trochinowska
Matěj Hádek – David Kurlstat
Karel Dobrý – Rohan
Václav Neužil – Mansfeld
Milan Ondriuk – Viktor Toffer
Agáta Kryštůfková – Dr. Legerová

Running Time: 107 minutes
Not Rated

There’s something about tech noir that just hits a sweet spot for me. Science fiction is often at its best when it’s exploring deeper themes of humanity, and when you put the filter of grim cynicism that defines film noir over it you get some of the most iconic and influential films in the genre. Blade Runner, The Matrix, Soylent Green and many other films have explored what dystopian futures could conceivably lay before us if we’re not careful, each laying their mark upon the world of cinema and our pop culture consciousness.

Restore Point is the latest entry into that hallowed ground of tech noir. Making its North American premiere at Fantasia International Film Fest, this Robert Hloz’s Czech-made mystery-thriller taps into familiar tech noir concepts to craft an intriguing thriller buoyed by stellar production values and a number of plot twists that keep us guessing.

Set in the Prague 2041, Restore Point finds us in a world where premature death is not the end for people. Thanks to new technology, people who able to survive accidents and crime thanks to a digital backup of themselves, which then can be used through restoration to bring those people back to life – providing that the backup isn’t over 48 hours old. The Restore Institute who produced the technology is about to privatize, a controversial move given that the previously-government funded technology could conceivably be the province of the wealthy if the prices go too high.

Not everyone is on board with the notion of restoration though, and an extremist group known as the River of Life has been responsible for several acts of terrorism in an attempt to disrupt people’s restorations. They are being pursued by the authorities, notably Detective Emma Trochinowska (Mohylová) who has very good reason to hate the extremists.

Em’s one-track mind gets her in trouble with her superiors, but she gets an opportunity to follow her investigation when one of the inventors of restoration, David Kurlstat (Hádek), is murdered along with his wife Kristina. What’s more, restoration is impossible due to the acts of the murderer. Em is assigned to the case and gets quite the surprise when a copy of David – taken from months ago, which is forbidden – shows up with no memories of what’s happened since the backup. With an unscrupulous Europol detective (Neužil) taking over and the head of the Institute (Dobrý) trying to cover things up to protect privatization efforts, Em must work with David to uncover the motive behind the killing, and how far the conspiracy they discover may actually extend.

Hloz is making his feature directorial debut with Restore Point, having co-written the film with Tomislav Čečka & Zdeněk Jecelín. From the jump, it’s clear that the creators had some pretty strong inspiration from other hallmarks in the genre – notably some of Blade Runner’s visual aesthetics and vibe, but also Minority Report, Strange Days, I Robot, and perhaps even the most recent Krokoan era run of Marvel’s X-Men comics, which has a similar “backup” process for resurrection. It would not be out of line to suggest that Restore Point cribs from all of these notions for the plots and narrative themes.

That said, there’s a distinct difference between drawing from or remixing the classics, and shamelessly ripping them off. Hloz and company are doing the former, giving a familiar but fun direction to the tropes and conceits. He deftly uses the audience’s expectations as shorthand to let us know what to expect from characters or situations, while also playing with those expectations in ways organic to the story he’s trying to tell.

It helps that we have a film that looks very good, especially considering the budget. Hloz’s near-future Prague is glossy and slick in its production while still giving us the grime of a dystopian world. The visual effects work is top-notch, allowing the world-building to take on a level of authenticity. It’s also a fantastically paced affair; the trios’ script has a strong balance between the necessary expository scenes and action sequences. It’s more dialogue-driven than you might expect given the Hollywood films of its style, but it never gets boring or bogs down because Em has a lot to learn, and there’s plenty of danger lurking around the corners.

The cast here is strong as well. Mohylová represents the stoic, cynical and driven detective in Em, but she is able to give us that glimpse into the person underneath at the right moments and her chemistry with Hádek’s David clicks nicely. Neužil and Dobrý make fine antagonists in their different ways, as does Milan Ondrík as a suspect in David and Kristina’s slayings.

It’s always important to nail the landing, and Restore Point doesn’t disappoint in that respect as the various plot thread streamline and answers come out in a satisfying way. There are a few fun homages here, and Hloz is able to pull off a couple unexpected rug pulls to drive a few points home and end things on a strong note.

The Fantasia International Film Festival takes place in Montreal from July 20th through August 9th.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Restore Point may not be the most wildly original tech noir film ever made, but it does what it sets out to do extremely well. Robert Hloz makes a strong impression in his genre-savvy feature directorial debut, delivering a slick and twisty sci-fi mystery that entertains on the back of solid performances, strong visual effects that don't get in the way of the story, and a few knowing winks to the genre. It's a film that, like all good sci-fi noir, touches on a lot of deeper elements but never forgets to let the audience enjoy the ride.