[Fantasia 2023 Review] RESTORE POINT

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, films like RESTORE POINT being covered here wouldn’t exist.

If you had the chance to back up your mind to defeat death, would you? Or would you choose to opt-out and live your life without the promise of a safety net? While featuring a familiar premise, Robert Hloz’s film debut, RESTORE POINT, is a slick, tightly packaged sci-fi neo-noir thriller that aims to explore these questions and more. As a launching point, the film showcases Hloz’s competency and vision as a filmmaker and should make everyone excited to see what he has up his sleeve next. Whether or not the questions are successfully answered is another story.

Taking place in Prague in 2041, new restoration technologies have eliminated the possibility of truly dying. However, these technologies are not foolproof. If a person does not consistently back up their copy of memories, they are doomed to a true death. While some citizens willingly choose to back up their minds, others reject the notion of refusing to live in fear. The extremists who fight back against the status quo are titled the River of Life, and their acts of vigilantism and murder further enhance the natural state of fear that has gripped this world.

At the center of RESTORE POINT is Emma “Em” Trochinowska (Andrea Mohylová), a young detective with a bone to pick with the River of Life. Thrust into a new murder case surrounding a married couple, she’ll find her beliefs questioned and her life in jeopardy unless she solves this crime.

RESTORE POINT – a solid sci-fi contender

As the first science fiction feature out of the Czech Republic in forty years, RESTORE POINT is a success. Hloz knows how to balance pacing and ensure that, despite lacking incredibly American action tropes like chases and such, the film never falters in its forward momentum. Featuring significant dialogue that conveys pertinent information to allow us to discover and unravel various conspiracies, we’re never left feeling weighed down. The only caveat is that there’s a lot of information revealed that can be hard to keep track of if you’re not paying attention.

As Em, Mohylová is stupendous. Playing the stubborn, lone wolf detective, there is an infusion of rock-hard exterior that steadily melts over the course of the movie. The more information Em obtains, the more her walls and morals begin to shift in pursuit of the greater good. Matej Hádek’s David has the devil’s task of playing a flawed version of himself. This journey is not just about uncovering who murdered him, but also self-exploration as he uncovers secrets about himself that he can no longer remember.

The philosophical questions surrounding mortality here are familiar but given a new look with the introduction of new technologies. With the overwhelming majority choosing to upload their memories than completely expire, there’s a nod here to how much access those with power have to not only bring you back to life but also access your memories. Unfortunately, RESTORE POINT only skims the surface of these moral and philosophical dilemmas. But that doesn’t take away from the overall story, thankfully.

The future as we know it

Making the decision to set RESTORE POINT less than two decades into the future is a risky move considering the technology featured. However, writers Tomislav Cecka and Zdenek Jecelin established the groundwork on paper to sell us on the believability of the timeline. With inequality being stark now, the idea that a death-defying spell of technology would be developed as a result of a surge in violent deaths, something that doesn’t seem to be remedied, is perfectly digestible.

The design and effects featured in RESTORE POINT add to the immersion. Making great use of the architecture in Prague, and applying futuristic effects in the media consumed, the billboards, and even the self-driving cars (something we already have), viewers are thrust into a world where the technological advancements are just advanced enough within the timeline to make sense.

The seamlessness of the effects applied trick the eye into thinking that it’s real. It is also in these moments that Filip Marek’s camera captures and amplifies the wonder when these technologies are used. Even when we’re brought back to recall a Universal Monster, how Marek’s camera, Ondrej Lipensky’s production design, Jaroslaw Kaminski’s editing, and Vladimir Wittgruber’s makeup come together to deliver this particular moment sells RESTORE POINT in its entirety.

RESTORE POINT will easily remind sci-fi fans of other properties. Yet, it is incredibly enjoyable. With solid pacing, strong, memorable performances, and a look and feel that immerses audiences easily in without feeling wholly manufactured, RESTORE POINT is a solid sci-fi contender to add to your collection.

RESTORE POINT played as a part of the 2023 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Sarah Musnicky
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