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Automata

7/10

Stars: Antonio Banderas, Tim McInnerny, Robert Forster, Dylan McDermott, Melanie Griffith, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, David Ryall, Christina Tam, voice of Javier Bardem

Director: Gabe IbŠŮez

While the idea of robots developing intelligence of their own is hardly new, the treatment of this variation is somewhat different, and atmospheric in concept. And, while the opening of the story is strong on visuals, but lacking in action, that aspect of the movie picks up in the second half, despite a bleached-out colour scheme.

It's 2044, and the remnants of a world population that has suffered decimation from solar storms have retreated to smogbound inner cities, where they have constructed robots, known as Automata Pilgrim, to help reconstruct the world. The robots have two 'protocols', which prevent them harming humans and altering themselves.

Something, however, is amiss, and insurance agent Jacq Vaucan (a shaven-headed Banderas), who longs to escape to the coast with his pregnant wife (Sorensen), is assigned to find out what's behind robots apparently developing 'unwanted' personality traits.

He soon comes go believe that there's a 'clocksmith' altering the robots and suspects scientist Dupré (Griffith on auto-pilot) whose robot servant Cleo seems 'different'. The truth, however, is far simpler, and Vaucan soon finds himself fleeing into the desert with Cleo, pursued by his grungy one-time colleague cop Wallace (an unrecognisable McDermott), who has orders from the Corporation (headed by the late UK actor Ryall) to shoot him down.

Despite some lulls, the film gathers pace towards a satisfying ending, with a good performance from McInnerny as the ultimate threat to Vaucan's future. What holograms of semi-naked women are doing swirling around the city we can't imagine, but it does add to the eerie ambience of a grim and depressing metropolis.

This film is 'on demand' from 27 April.

David Quinlan

Canada/Spain 2014. UK Distributor: LionsGate. Colour (unspecified).
109 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 26 Apr 2015