It is sometimes strange how a good film can seem to magically appear out of thin air. With very little publicity many could assume that April Mullen’s (Wander) Simulant may not be worth the price of admission. But that assumption would be wrong because this turns out to be one of the most unusual and underrated films of the 2023.
The film is set in the not too distant future. Humans co-exist with humanoids called simulants. The first few generations of simulants do the more mundane jobs – things like house cleaning, restaurant work etc – while the later generations are so realistic that many can’t tell that they aren’t human.
To keep order simulants are programmed to keep several important rules including never hurting a human, never leaving their human owners and above all obeying every order that they are ever given by a human.
However, Detective Kessler (Sam Worthington – Avatar) believes that not all simulants are now obeying those rules. He believes a simulant who was watching his child killed it and now he uses his profession to true and prove that his theory is right.
He believes that he is close to the truth when he discovers a simulant named Esme (Alicia Sanz – From Dusk To Dawn: The Series) who has left her human family and is living with the mysterious Casey (Simu Liu – Shang-Chi And The Legend Of Ten Rings) who once worked for the company that invented simulants. As Kessler interrogates Esme he learns that she had developed human-like feelings for Casey and also seems to have emotions – things that she was never programmed to have.
Meanwhile married couple Evan (Robbie Amell – Upload) and Faye (Jordana Brewster – The Fast & The Furious) are trying to put their lives together after a serious car accident. However as they try to live their lives day by day it soon becomes apparent that they have a simulant secret of their own that will soon lead to their paths crossing with Casey.
With so many films already exploring the world of AI and robots it is refreshing for a film like Simulant to come along that has a fresh take on the idea. Screenwriter Ryan Christopher Churchill (Love Your Enemy) has created a world where the events that are happening are not as black and white as say they might be in a film like The Terminator.
Viewers of Simulant will find themselves taken on a strange emotional journey as they watch the film. As the battle between Kessler and Casey comes to the fore viewers will find themselves switching allegiances throughout the film as every twist and turn seems to reveal something that makes you believes that the bad are now good and the good are now bad.
That happens so many times that when the closing credits start to roll you will probably find yourself sitting in silence as you try to gather your thoughts and try to work out whether the good side or the bade side came out triumphant. That’s not because there isn’t a clear winner, it is simple because our own human emotions will have to try to work out whose end-game was for the good of the world that they live. That kind of feeling for an audience may seem like it might need lead to frustration but actually it results in you feeling totally fulfilled because an ending like that is extremely rare in the cinema world.
Of course before that moment the audience also finds themselves being taken on a wild ride. While Simulant may not have the huge budget and special effects of many other films in this genre it does have a decent storyline that draws in those watching it. The low budget filmmaking also makes the events on screen feel more real – which given the nature of the storyline gives the audience more of a realisation that this maybe the future that we are heading for.
The strong characterisation that shines through with Churchill’s screenplay also allows for actors like Worthington and Brewster to show that they have acting abilities well and truly above what we have seen in the franchises that have made them famous.
Worthington seems to relish in a role of a pained Detective whose determination to prove his point may see him just to the dark side while Brewster reminds audiences that there is more to her acting range then driving fast cars. Like Worthington she plays a tortured soul who has many emotionally dramatic moments throughout the film.
Simulant may not have the budget of films like Terminator 2 or Minority Report but it does have a well-written script that keeps the audience guessing throughout. With believable characters and an ending that will make you stop and think this is one of the most unexpected films of 2023.