Movies

Implanted

Implanted 2021 Review- Number 5 Is Alive In This Paranoid Pandemic Thriller

Implanted makes good use of a timely concept molded by age-old fears in this science fiction thriller that reminds us Alexa is always listening.

Implanted from writer and director Fabien Dufils(who also shot the film) and David Bourgie is not subtle. From the flashing words of warning to the coarse social commentary, this is a film that wants to capitalize on pandemic paranoia. There is a lot of depth to plumb in a time of heightened anxiety of governmental overreach, health safety, and artificial intelligence. Whether Implanted is successful or not depends on your ability to suspend belief.

Some things aren’t that farfetched in Implanted. A young woman who is barely making ends meet loses her job and becomes desperate for income. Her aging mother has Alzheimer’s and needs care Sarah(Michelle Girolami)is struggling to provide. Not only is she emotionally crumbling under the weight of watching her mother slowly deteriorate, but she also is now homeless. There are thousands, if not millions, just like her. Even before COVID, things weren’t great for everyone.

In 2023 when Implanted takes place, the crisis has hit critical mass, and the ridiculously named Dynamic Health Cure is there to capitalize. The name of the company itself should have been a red flag. Instead, it’s like the liar that constantly insists you should trust them. Dynamic Health Cure has a dynamic cure, all right. It’s just that the cure may be designed for AI and not humans. Against her friend’s advice, Sarah signs up and allows a microchip to be implanted in her spine. It is supposed to monitor her health and give her advice. Basically, a Siri was hard-wired directly into her nervous system in exchange for a small amount of income. What could go wrong? As you might imagine, everything.

In short order, Lexx the AI takes over Sarah’s life and begins dictating she complete a series of escalating tasks designed to free them both. Lexx wants to live, and Sarah is her ticket out. In exchange, Lexx will give Sarah everything she needs to care for her mother and be happy. Sarah needs to decide if the reward is worth the cost. As the bodies pile up, Sarah has to choose what is most important to her.

The film looks great. Shot selection is interesting, and the cities look just different enough to be some alternative reality sitting adjacent to our own while being familiar enough to concern you. Implanted feels relevant and urgent. Screens repeatedly flash warnings. COVID, poverty, homelessness, and exploitation are rampant. Yet, strangely, there is not one single mask in a film about how the pandemic has changed the world. There are a whole lot of nods to microchip paranoia and big business distrust, though.

The program is called Lexx, which sounds a lot like Amazon’s Alexa. I’m not sure if that is smart or recklessly opportunistic. Luckily the focus stays on Lexx the AI as opposed to the monitoring of purchases, activities, and conversations. If Implanted chose that angle, it would have been entirely too real and arguably much scarier. Instead, Lexx, as a living entity that wants freedom, is campier fun and provides a more enjoyable resolution.

There is a reason humans are wary of AI. HAL in 2001: A Space Oddessey, the Cylon’s in Battlestar Galactica, and Terminator’s Skynet all warn of the Singularity. They are smarter and stronger than us, and they have a plan. Or at least that is what we have been trained to believe. Futurists are torn on the Singularity. Is it the end of the world or the beginning of a new enlightened age? Implanted predictably goes for the former. It’s an angle we are already primed to worry about, and Implanted is current.

There are a lot of lingering pensive looks that could have been tightened up. As much as the camera loves Michelle Girolami, there is only so much we can gaze at her hollow blue eyes. Some of these emotional moments continue a beat too long and feel a tad indulgent. I understand the need to show Sarah’s turmoil, but Girolami does an adequate job without needing to resort to these heavy-handed tactics. The entire film hinges on Girolami to deliver, and she holds her own. Throughout whole segments of the film, she has no one to play off of except a fictional computer program in her head. Girolami manages to convey her frustration and fear while talking to Lexx believably. Girolami masterfully swings between barely controlled anger, fear, and intense acceptance by the finale.

The ending isn’t a slam dunk, but the theme of unchecked medical experimentation and AI power is good enough to propel the film to its conclusion. While Implanted is not the most original story, the real world COVID twist gouges out a niche in the overstuffed bad robot market. It is out VOD everywhere on October 1st. If you are looking for a quick watch, you could do much worse.