This low-budget sci-fi has an engaging premise and interesting ideas that deal with themes like corporate greed and post-humanism. It’s also a little frustrating that it’s all in the service of a slightly generic detective procedural. It leaves this impressively staged Czech film (apparently the first sci-fi from the region for 40 years; slightly surprising from the language that gave us the word ‘robot’) with a slight overtone of wasted potential.

In 2041 society has degraded to the point where a violent death has become a statistical likelihood. In response, technology has been developed that allows a user to back up their consciousness to a server and resurrect their body in the case of an unnatural demise. This technology is limited to a 48 hour window so the government – who run the programme – constantly remind the citizens to continually upload. When restoration scientist David Kurlstat (Matěj Hádek) and his wife are murdered, apparently without having made a back up, detective Em Trochinowska (Andrea Mohylová) is assigned to investigate. She immediately suspects The Rivers of Life, a terrorist group who believe the technology is against the laws of nature, and who ‘absolutely murdered’ her husband past his 48 hour cutoff two years previously.

Restore Point‘s worldbuilding is perhaps its biggest achievement. On a budget of €2m, the filmmakers have crafted a plausible near future that augments the existing Prague with impressive and unobtrusive CGI. Recent history has been mined for the film’s atmosphere, with the audience’s knowledge of the Eastern Bloc doing a lot of heavy lifting in terms of an authoritarian dystopia. The additions to the skyline are a collision of the brutalist and futurist, the shock of the new mixed with the baggage of the old. For the visual palette, while the story is indebted to Blade Runner and Minority Report, Restore Point has much more in common with Nordic Noir. It’s a chilly and desaturated look.

The Nordic Noir comparisons extends to its protagonist. Em is straight out of the Sarah Lund playbook. Grimly tenacious and single-minded, she’s played with a set-jawed pugnacity by Mohylová. It serves the film’s propulsive narrative well – there’s little fat on the bone here – but short of the grieving, maverick detective trope there’s little character arc. It’s not a massive impediment to enjoyment given the film’s focus on plot, but adds to that sense of distance that ideas-driven sci-fi can leave with the viewer.

Still, one would be delighted to see Robert Hloz and his collaborators return to this world, either with another case for Trochinowska, or an exploration of some of the limitless possibilities such a concept could spawn. It’s clearly down to the budget, but because there are few extras seen in the film, you don’t really get the sense of the hopelessly dangerous society the film posits. Exploring that potential violence would be an exciting prospect. Despite its narrative ambitions not matching those of its world Restore Point introduces a tantalising future.

Available on digital download from Mon 1 Apr 2024