Review: LX 2048, Long on Big Ideas and Head-Spinning Plot Turns

Lead Critic; San Francisco, California
Review: LX 2048, Long on Big Ideas and Head-Spinning Plot Turns

Major props to filmmaker Guy Moshe (Bunraku, Holly) and his hyperactive imagination. He not only wrote and directed but also edited and produced LX 2048, a modestly budgeted, near-future dystopian, cautionary tale. Though obviously inspired by Blade Runner, Black Mirror and practically everything in between, LX 2048 stands on its own for its loopy, surrealistic, risk-embracing charms.

LX 2048 overflows with the kind of wildly ambitious, provocative Big Ideas atypical for a genre that too often has tilted towards action over story or character. There’s little actual action in LX 2048, at least the way contemporary action tends to be defined as a combination of physical stunt-work and budget-busting visual effects. Instead, the action in LX 2048 revolves around character-revealing character and an overabundance of vertigo-inducing plot twists, turns, and switchbacks that build towards one of the head-on-a-plate-spinning finales in a genre film this year.

When we first meet Adam Bird (James D’Arcy), a tech company executive on the verge of a mid-21st-century nervous breakdown, he’s in a doctor’s office, receiving the equivalence of a death sentence: A bad heart, a terminal illness, and an uncertain immediate fate. As his specialist, Dr. Rhys (Gina McKee), a clone for reasons to be described later if not sooner, cheerfully reminds Adam, he’s eligible for a “Premium 3” upgrade, a fully functional replacement clone bought and paid for by his life insurance policy.

His clone will step into the predesignated spot as spouse to Adam’s estranged, soon-to-be-ex-wife, Reena (Anna Brewster), the apparent embodiment of a killer shrew (she's cold, cruel, and callous, less character than borderline misogynistic caricature), and father to his three perpetually neglected sons. (They’re fine actually, spending the bulk of their waking hours interacting with friends, instructors, and family via the ubiquitous VR devices that have become the near-future norm.)

Shockingly (not shockingly, of course), Adam doesn’t take the news of a shortened lifespan or upcoming termination date with anything approaching calm. He’s all but set to rage against the dying of the (his) light, of life and promise unfulfilled, only taking comfort in his virtual girlfriend, Maria (Gabrielle Cassi), the proximate cause of his estrangement to and with Reena, traveling during the daytime to in-person board meetings where he’s the only person present. (Due presumably to the ravages of unchecked climate change, leaving your abode without a hazmat suit can lead to third-degree burns and seared lungs.)

He can’t, however, visit his children in the real world. Thanks ― or rather no thanks ― to a restraining order, he can only visit them virtually, via the shared digital space where most people spend their days and nights, the Realm.

With his heart slowing down to its last, final beat ― a not-quite-subtle symbol of Adam’s existential ennui ― Adam proceeds with a desperate, oddly familiar (insert Blade Runner reference here) plan: Find the maker, the genius clone creator, Donald Stein (Delroy Lindo), and hope for physical, if not spiritual salvation. Instead, Donald finds him, angrily awakening Adam, gun in hand, suspecting Adam of being a government agent or stooge (he’s neither).

Once things settle down, Donald throws down a few, head-expanding ideas, less about clones or even A.I., but about since discarded technology that will allow Adam and eventually everyone else, to download their consciousness directly into the digital Realm, where they’ll live in eternal bliss, free of their poorly designed, mortal bodies or the consequences of the climate change they’ve caused.

And that’s only the halfway point of LX 2048. Interested more in exploring ideas and questions (minus any definitive answers given or suggestion), Moshe throws one surprise after another (after another) into the narrative that will leave even the most attentive, engaged viewer at a loss of words and questioning what they just saw. That’s a net positive, in case you’re wondering.

While thematically LX 2048 covers familiar ground typical of anti-technology cautionary tales (i.e., our addiction to tech, social media, etc., as a substitute for human connection), he’s just as interested in how technology can irrevocably change or alter our personalities along with what, as always, it means to be human. Hint: It might just involve a Shakespearean throw-down with your over-eager clone, a more than human, idealized version of yourself, or rather the idealized version your lover or spouse always wanted.

LX 2048 is now available to rent via most VOD platforms.

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Anna BrewsterGabrielle CassiGuy MosheJuliet AubreyLithuaniaUS

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