Fantasia Festival: Restore Point (2023)

Director: Robert Hloz

Running Time: 108 Minutes

Starring: Andrea Mohylová, Matej Hádek, Milan Ondrík, Václav Neuzil, Karel Dobrý, Agáta Cervinková

Prague, 2041. As people's fears escalate due to a rise in violent crimes, death has been conquered by the Restoration Institute who offer people the chance to upload their memories to the corporate cloud and be resurrected in the event of an unconstitutional death. This is called Restore Point. Such a practice is considered unnatural by a terrorist group called River of Life, who make their point through murderous means, and Detective Trochinowska (Andrea Mohylová) is intent on stopping them.

Trochinowska is assigned to the investigation of a married couple's double-homicide, with the husband being the Restoration Institute's head of research. As neither victim had a valid backup for restoration, it is absolute murder. A suspect is found, although matters grow confusing as the detective encounters an illegally restored version of the murdered husband, David Kurlstat (Matej Hádek).

Co-writer/director Robert Hloz adapts a screenplay also credited to Tomislav Cecka and Zdenek Jecelin, building a twisting narrative full of revelations from this fascinatingly crafted neo-noir. While restore points could feel like a cheat, tension is added by the set limitations that add an interesting layer of mortality within a seemingly immortal society. It also highlights the immorality of corporations, as the institute transforms tragedy into a marketing powerhouse to argue for privatizing restoration. While hope and security are offered to people for correcting senseless tragedies, this is dependent on backups not being forgotten. As privatization offers real-time backups, this becomes a microtransaction which offers cheat codes for life provided one can pay.

Trochinowska initially ticks the expected boxes for a grizzled archetype, as she seeks to avenge a dead partner, refuses to work with others, and disobeys her superior's orders. She soon realizes that she is forced to protect a system that frightens its citizens with death, as the choice to die is now taken away from people to become a commodity under governmental control, while also invading privacy and ethics. Perhaps that is why she interestingly refuses to kill, as adding to the growing body count however momentarily is playing into the government's hands.

An interesting pairing is formed as she teams up with the recently resurrected David, uniting for an investigation which involves solving one of their murders. While trying to find answers, the six-month gap leaves David grappling with the person he became during that missing period. A particularly impressive sequence has his hopes shatter while experiencing memories which, despite depicting him, are not his own.

The pair's investigation sees them uncover horrifying truths hidden behind what is revealed for publicity's sake, with Europol agent Mansfield (Václav Neuzil) on their heels to maintain the status quo for the "greater good". What's left is a compelling thriller where the problem does not end with the people, as the rotten roots are deeply imbedded within the system itself.

Restore Point made its North American Premiere at Fantasia Festival 2023