FANTASIA 2023: RESTORE POINT is a Rousing Dose of High Concept Czech Sci-Fi

The piece below was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the art being covered in this piece wouldn't exist.

Restore Point is a rousing dose of high concept Czech sci-fi, that screened and Fantasia and is the directorial debut by Robert Hloz. The film borrows liberally from Mamoru Oshii’s anime classic Ghost in the Shell and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner to tell the story of Em (Andrea Mohylová), a female detective trying to solve two murders in a futuristic metropolis in 2041. The hook here is due to the rise of violent crime, anyone who dies of unnatural causes can be “restored”, or brought back to life for up to 48 hours after their death. The only quirks of the process is not only the time limit of 48 hours, but the fact that during life a person is then forced to back up constantly to take advantage of this government service. This basically forces folks to spend every waking moment pondering their mortality, and preparing for their death, rather than simply living their lives. 

This is where the terrorist organization “The River of Life” comes in. They are quick to point out the weight this “unnatural” technology inflicts on the psyche of the population and highlight it by committing “absolute murders” to terrorize the populace. This is where the victims are always found past their 48 hours, or their backups have been erased/destroyed to ensure their inability to restore. When the absolute murders Em is charged with investigating turn out to be the pioneer of the restore technology – David Kurlstat (Matěj Hádek) and his wife, things get a bit intriguing, especially given the government funded company is looking to privatize its tech. It’s then up to Em, to navigate this future noir, to find the who and the why behind these murders as well as give us a glimpse of what put her on this path. 

Envisioning the future is no easy task, but Restore’s take feels both organic and believable. It feels just lived in enough while not going too far, which definitely helps us to actually believe this technology exists. Andrea Mohylová as Em is a powerful and charismatic lead, who manages to remain both empowered and independent throughout the film. It’s something that’s never second guessed by anyone she encounters either, as she traverses this world – especially when going on the run. The narrative here is solid, and has some interesting ideas about the science and the morality of not only the restore service, but the murder that transpires in the film – once all the cards are on the table. It’s something I wasn’t quite expecting, but leads to some fun post-film conversations and reflections. 

While no doubt derivative, it does so in the best possible way, in that it still feels like it has its own angle – while still “borrowing” from other films in the genre. The film’s imaginative production design and cast are what really elevates the material from being simply a knock off when it retreads some familiar territory that better films have previously traversed. That said, while the film doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it does however put its own interesting spin on it and that definitely warrants a watch alone. Restore Point is a slick sci-fi thriller that looks like it would feel right at home in an American multiplex. It’s a strikingly cerebral future noir that has its own unique hook which zeroes in on what makes living in the moment, without fear the only way to live. 

Previous post Criterion Review: Terry Gilliam’s TIME BANDITS [4K-UHD]
Next post NYAFF 2023: BEAR MAN