In a world where androids (SIMS) and humans coexist, the former in more domestic and care giving roles. Having already pulled the plug on her husband after a tragic accident, artist Faye debates whether to do the same for his SIM counterpart. Instead, she sends him to live illegally on his own. There he meets the radical Casey, a programmer who believes that all SIMS should be free, helping them become more human by hacking their systems. And hunting both of them down is Artificial Intelligence Compliance Enforcement agent Kessler, who has suffered his own tragic loss at the hands of a SIM, is trying to stop a global event that will alter SIMS forever.
The question whether robots should have full autonomy and the freedom to do what they want has been explored before in film and TV. Robots realising what they are and accepting what they are capable of has been portrayed on screen to a lesser extent, until recently. Robots and machinery discovering their own version of humanity is fascinating to watch as these stories revolve less around the creator and more about the debate whether robot should be allowed to evolve on their own. These questions come up usually when the robots are played as looking, just like us humans. Simulant is the latest to debate this subject, delving slightly deeper into why robots should be given the opportunity to be who they wholly are. But of course, with all the best laid plans, there are always flaws, especially in a perfect design. If robots are becoming more ‘life like', taking on the same emotions, they can also act on them too, with devastating and dangerous consequences.
There is a mix of genres at work in Simulant which complement each other, blending with each character's own story and agenda. The complicated love story between grieving wife and android counterpart husband breaks down the debate over whether machines should be free to be more human, playing out over the story. While the more thriller-eques aspects of the film draws us in to the conspiracy or revolution, depending how you see Casey's actions as being. As soon as a ticking clock is introduced, building up to the climax of the film, this is when tension, action and excitement ramps up and where the film thrives. The only frustrating part of the film is near the end. Feeling slightly fragmented with a convoluted and exaggerated fight/death scene that doesn't quite fit with the rest of the film. Luckily the very final scenes bring back the dark overtones teased throughout.
Simu Liu is perfectly cast as the enigmatic Casey who both provides a calming presence or a radical willing to do whatever it takes to reach a goal; he holds the story together with ease. Finding the humanity in androids can be a difficult task but Alicia Sanz manages to breakthrough. But Sam Worthington is given the hardest part to play as the grizzled agent who could have come across as one note but thankfully ends up being an integral element.
Reminiscent of other science fiction stories that have come before such as Blade Runner, Surrogates and Humans, Simulant is strangely comforting in this familiarity. A mixture of a heart-breaking love story, sci-fi action and a ticking clock thriller, Simulant is a worthy addition to the sub-genre.
Simulant will release in cinemas and VOD in the US on 2nd June and in the UK later this year