There's something self-referential when you see James D'Arcy walk around in a desolate environment dressed in an orange hazmat suit. Given the current climate (which needs no further explanation), the idea of a world forced to stay indoors and remain connected to technology (not because of COVID but because of toxic sunlight) feels like a promising premise. Yet despite its lofty ambitions, it never reaches the heights it desperately wants to achieve.
The best way to describe LX 2048 (in a title that feels like a homage to George Lucas's THX 1138) is a hodgepodge of sci-fi concepts and ideas, lumbered together with a Black Mirror-esque social commentary and satire. Humanity is replaced by cloned versions of themselves after they die, equipped with the protection of being immune from the deadly sunlight. The surviving few (who have yet to make that change) live an artificial life indoors, recreating their lives online with VR headsets that could easily be a PS5 accessory. And amid this social upheaval is Adam Bird (James D'Arcy), someone who's willing to maintain social interaction in the real world by going into the office every single day – no matter how futile that is. That's until he discovers he's dying from a heart condition and suddenly has to get his affairs in order before his ‘clone' is activated upon his death.
There's an aspect of validity in what writer and director Guy Moshe is articulating. Some would take issue with its low budget quality, and its limitations are hard to bypass. LX 2048 doesn't spend the time delving into its dystopian landscape, leaving its audiences with more questions than answers. Instead, it's more interested in the conversations it evokes about social identity and our relationships with technology – for better or for worse.
What the film eventually becomes is a slow descent into a self-conscious, techno-paranoia-infused delirium, evolving into a one-man stage show act with D'Arcy pouring every social anxiety, insecurity, and existential crisis onto the screen. The irony is not lost in LX 2048 with Moshe's comparative case. Where it seems Adam has a ‘heart' (subjective), the rest of the planet is devoid of it, where empathy has been reduced to a disconnected, desensitised, uncompassionate, and cruel way of life, absent of any moral judgement. In other words, if the toxic environment of Twitter was turned into a film, Moshe's LX 2048 covers that territory. In that same melting pot, Moshe throws in the fallacies of living in a superficial world, bounded by corporate insurance policies where your clone can be upgraded to the ‘best version of you', removing any natural insecurities or character defaults. Or in one scene which Adam discovers, improve your sexual anatomy.
And to Moshe's credit, he tries to give the film a level of consequence. In LX 2048, it's brought to heightened fruition with Adam having a digital affair with Maria (Gabrielle Cassi), instigating that he has more connection with her than his wife Renna (Anna Brewster) and their three kids. It effectively destroys his marriage, setting off a downward spiral of rapid pitfalls of the system.
The problem is, for all its quirks and eccentricities, it never makes a coherent argument that it can stick to. It's a film which has plenty to say about our societal dependence on technology, but it's buried underneath its muddled plot and heavy exposition. There's a lot going on, and it's not helped by its choice of dragged-out conversations that overpowers its audience into a pit of restlessness or its uneven (and occasionally, non-linear) editing. But for a film that lasts for one hour and forty-three minutes, it takes a while to get going. And when I mean a while, it's severe, monotonously plodding along at a slow pace before unleashing a bonkers third act.
For an interesting concept, it manages to sap away the energy it desperately needs to maintain attention. D'Arcy's character-driven performance as Adam is befittingly over the top in playing a character who is not immune from the techno hypocrisy. The powerhouse presence of Delroy Lindo as the conspiracy-fuelled Donald Stein helps bring the star quality despite the abruptness of his character arc. Yet somehow, it's not enough to redeem it.
Perhaps it would have worked better as a TV show. Because there's no escaping the wasted potential in LX 2048, where the confidence is evident in its themes, but not in its convoluted execution. More often than none, it overthinks or overcomplicates its concept. But by doing so, despite its oddball mechanics, it leaves the film disappointingly flat.
Dir: Guy Moshe
Scr: Guy Moshe
Prd: Guy Moshe, Karolis Malinauskas, Linas Pozera, Pedro Tarantino & Matthew G. Zamias
DOP: Thomas Buelens
Music: Sarah DeCourcy, Erez Moshe & Ian Richter
Runtime: 105 minutes
Dazzler Media presents new dystopian sci-fi LX 2048 coming to Blu-ray, DVD & Digital from 25th January 2021.