Zone 414, 2021.
Directed by Andrew Baird.
Starring Guy Pearce, Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Travis Fimmel, Jonathan Aris, Colin Salmon, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Ned Dennehy, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, and Olwen Fouéré.
Set in the near future in a colony of state-of-the-art humanoid robots. When its creator’s daughter goes missing, he hires private investigator David Carmichael, to bring her home. David teams up with Jane, a highly advanced and self-aware A.I., to track down the missing daughter. Moving through the dangerous iron jungle, they rapidly piece together the mystery, uncovering a crime that leads them to question the origins of Zone 414 and the true purpose behind the “City of Robots.”
In the near future, depicted in Zone 414, androids exist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given what we know about society, they have been purposed as luxury items serving lonely men anything from companionship to sex work. Created by tech billionaire Marlon Veidt (a creepy and enigmatic Travis Fimmel), there also happens to be a unique model capable of conscious thoughts that appears to harness more and more free will every day. She is known as Jane (Matilda Lutz, unable to balance robotic tones with the genuine emotion that’s called upon the character as the story progresses, marking a stark contrast between her brilliant work in the French rape-revenge thriller simply titled Revenge), successfully programmed to do more than take orders. One early scene depicts Jane reenacting a memory for a grieving man pretending to be his deceased wife, so it’s evident that she is a one-of-a-kind achievement that Marlon cherishes.
To clarify, Maron admires his creation from afar. With his bottomless pit of money, he has also created a city of robots dubbed Zone 414, where androids are free to interact with humans socially, although to what extent lacks exploration. The focus here is on men, either sexual or disturbing thoughts seeking escapism and company. Jane reports to a seemingly sociopathic superior named Royale (Olwen Fouéré), who coaches her to fulfill these various wishes. Holed up in a fancy loft, it’s clear that Jane desires a different life and some agency.
Meanwhile, Marlon’s human daughter has gone missing, entering Zone 414 against her father’s wishes, presumably frustrated that he spends all his time with robots and doesn’t show much affection to his actual family. Nevertheless, he employs former police detective David Carmichael (Guy Pearce) after placing him through a moral test involving androids to retrieve his daughter without commotion in exchange for a hefty financial reward.
Naturally, David’s journey crosses paths with Jane, but to say that the film is uneventful would be an understatement. There appears to be a man stalking Jane at night, which strikes fear in her (apparently, men are allowed to threaten these androids if that is their request, so it’s logical to assume one might be twisted enough to enjoy spying), so David vows to protect her if she assists with the investigation. The team effort takes them to a few new shady characters and tragic revelations (none of which are surprising considering there’s really only one character that could be doing the stalking), yet nothing that ever feels remotely engaging. Even the third-act family drama is routine and boring.
A significant part of this could be due to director Andrew Baird only having experience working on music videos and short films. Zone 414 indeed has the feel of an intriguing concept filled with so much dead air that it might work better as a more propulsive 15 minute short. The snoozer of a script from Bryan Edward Hill doesn’t help anything. There’s a sense that the actors are trying and agree that there is potential here, but Zone 414 isn’t suspenseful, thoughtful, visually appealing, or sexy. It is as lifeless as the humanoid robots taking orders.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com