To his credit, no one but Keanu Reeves could lead the cast of the new sci-fi flick Replicas with anywhere near the same level of success. Sure, the story is far-fetched—but the actor’s performance is so sincere that you almost believe that the events unfolding before you on the screen are within the realm of possibility.
In Replicas, Reeves plays a daring neuroscientist whose wife (Alice Eve) and three children are killed in a tragic car accident. Devastated beyond belief, he decides to stop at nothing to bring them back—even if that means pitting himself against a government-controlled laboratory and the physical laws of science themselves.
Reeves’ character essentially extracts the consciousness of his family members and implants them into clones. However, this process is not without its unique hiccups—which require some difficult decisions to be made—and there is also an experiment involving a robot-of-sorts percolating on the back burner.
The film stumbles out of the gate, introducing audiences to that robot subplot. That prologue—paired with the movie’s misguided marketing campaign that highlights the artificial intelligence aspects of the story—does not accurately reflect Replicas as a whole, which is much more a sci-fi-spun yarn about a man’s attempt to erase an accident and keep his family.
Fortunately, the film finds its footing soon thereafter. The end-result may appeal to a broader audience due to its surprising amount of humanity. Reeves is essentially playing himself here—as he does in most movies—and the quiet desperation that he naturally exudes works to advance the movie’s dramatic moments and propel the motion picture beyond its sci-fi trappings.
Having said that, the visual effects in Replicas are ridiculously ugly. The robot’s scenes are horribly clunky and not at all representative of a professional movie production. This only becomes truly problematic during the film’s finale, at which time the robot’s subplot comes full circle and we get a whole lot more of those cheap visual effects that yank us right out of the story.
Moreover, moviegoers are left on a somewhat vague note that confuses far more than satisfies or provokes additional thought into the topics of cloning and creating sentient beings. Still, the story itself is intriguing enough along the way and encourages audiences to wonder what they would do if faced with similar circumstances.
Replicas is by no means a masterpiece. There are other movies that have made far better use of similar material and its visual effects are cringe-worthy to say the least. Fortunately, most of the movie does not rely on them and instead focuses on Reeves’ personal dilemma—a dilemma resulting in an organic reaction from the actor that is entertaining enough in and of itself.