Sci-fi thriller Replicas stars Keanu Reeves as an experimental biologist making morally questionable decisions to save his family’s life. The film is an ambitious effort that swings for the fences but a confusing plot and resolution make it a convoluted effort. Lionsgate Entertainment brings Replicas to HD with a solid A/V presentation and a satisfying group of bonus features. Rent it and turn your brain off for a good time.
“You don’t seem like yourself today.”
At Bionyne Industries William Foster (Reeves) leads a research team tasked with implanting the neural data and memories of the recently deceased into robots. The film opens on a fatally wounded soldier prepped for the procedure. William and his lab tech Ed (Thomas Middleditch) insert a probe into the donor body, extract the information, and begin transferring it to a robot. Keanu dons a helmet with a clear visor reminding me of Johnny Mnemonic instantly. He pulls up a projected display in which he manipulates the brain mapping data like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. When the data imprints onto the robot “brain,” William speaks my favorite line of the film: “Margaret, energize the body.” Keanu does it with such authority that it kills me every time. The implantation fails as the robot violently rips itself apart after a panicked realization that he isn’t human anymore. To Williams, this is a successful effort, but his smug corporate boss Mr. Jones (John Ortiz) doesn’t see anything but wasted money. Mona (Alice Eve) is the skeptical wife keeping William in check. “Maybe there’s more that makes us human, like a soul,” she says hoping to reach the human inside her scientist husband. To escape the pressures of his recent failure William takes his family away for a weekend trip. A massive thunderstorm results in a fatal car accident that puts William in a morally questionable situation.
From the start of Jeffrey Nachmanoff’s film the stakes are quite clear: What would you do to save your family? Foster’s work on transferring memories and his inclination to see people as just a collection of electrical impulses adds an interesting element to this near-future thriller. Unfortunately, Foster's follow-through is clunky and riddled with too many devices (literally) complicating matters. After a lengthy introduction to his work, you believe the solution to his family’s deaths would lie within that robot, but seemingly out of nowhere Ed delivers a truckload of equipment which takes this story in a completely different (and more complicated) direction. Worse yet is that Replicas handles this moment with such brash confidence you’d think we should’ve just known about Ed’s secret research project this whole time!
The leaps we’re asked to take with William and Ed are illogical but inspire deep questions about the laws of nature and the fragile nature of humanity. I enjoyed the film taking its time during the first act to allow William to process and grieve his family’s untimely deaths. As a parent, this film hit me right in the feels many, many times. How do you measure experiences? What makes us human other than our connections and memories? How do you delete someone from your life? Therein lies the worthwhile part of Replicas buried beneath a flashy robotic exoskeleton.
Predictably, audiences may expect this to be either a horror film with gory science exacting revenge or a straight up sci-fi actioner like Total Recall or I, Robot. It has some of both camps but never fully commits to one or the other successfully. Thankfully Replicas works so well as a mad scientist film you might look at it that way. Seeing a fragile William deal with the loss of this family while breaking himself to find a solution is a thrill ride worth watching. If Replicas does anything well its putting William through a steady stream of WTF moments. However, when the film needs to reach a resolution, we’re given a groan-inducing finale rendering the film a dark comedy of sorts.
Performances from Reeves and Middleditch are solid. Selling both the hokey science jargon and the heavy emotional beats nicely the two actors make an interesting duo. Keanu brings his game face to the film even when it's covered with a silly VR visor. Middleditch seems suited as the snarky lab tech, given his notoriety on Silicon Valley. Alice Eve and John Ortiz provide good performances as well, given the material.
A confusing yet intriguing sci-fi thriller, Replicas may look and behave like a b-movie, but it has substance within its layers. Watch it because it’s a decent film that poses deep questions while taking every sci-fi trope with it. It’s an ambitious endeavor, which pays off by the end, but combating tonal shifts make me question what this movie wants to be.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Replicas arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Lionsgate Entertainment in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo pack. The discs are housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a side-by-side disc arrangement and the digital copy insert inside. Pressed onto a Region A BD-50 disc the film opens with the Lionsgate logo followed by trailers before landing on the Main Menu screen. Scenes from the film play above standard navigation options.
Presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 Replicas looks impressive on Blu-ray.
The transfer is bright and lively with lush tropical colors from the island landscapes blended with the prominent primaries in clothing and expensive looking lights in the lab. Fine detail in costumes and facial features throughout the feature. Plenty of neon colors for sci-fi nonsense never compromise the color palette yet keep us keenly aware we’re not in reality. Black levels hold strong but are compromised a bit during the nighttime car accident scenes. CGI elements look solid on the VR displays but fall short on the robots rendering them more stop-motion than expected. Overall an excellent image presentation with some downfalls that don’t compromise the entirety of the film.
Replicas arrives with a powerful DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track.
Strong and full with generous use of the surround elements, this audio mix sings with atmospherics from the torrential thunderstorm to the array of mechanical noises at Bionyne. Dialogue is clear through the dominant center channel. Front channels easily handle the remainder that this mix has to offer. LFE is robust without sounding punchy. Directionality is impressive during Bionyne lab scenes and moments with the Foster family at home.
This Blu-ray offers a nice selection of bonus content with the commentary track as the best bet for diving deeper into the film.
Replicas poses some deep moral questions while taking every sci-fi trope along for an amusing ride. It’s an interesting philosophical exercise with a mad scientist vibe. Keanu seems at home in any science fiction film these days, but this isn’t his strongest effort of late. It’s an ambitious endeavor but combating tonal shifts and odd pacing make for a confusing resolution. Lionsgate provides a solid A/V presentation for the film with a satisfying group of bonus features. Need your Keanu fix before another John Wick sequel? Rent it and turn your brain off for a good time.