Simulant (2023) Movie Review – A poor man’s version of Channel 4’s Humans

A poor man’s version of Channel 4’s Humans

With the prevailing growth of Artificial Intelligence, there’s perhaps been no better time for an indie sci-fi flick like Simulant to come out. However, much like the Simulates occupying this world, you can’t help but feel a sense of artificiality and niggling deja vu, as the cogs operating behind the scenes have been plucked from better, more competent entries in the genre.

In essence, Simulant is a heady blend of A.I., Ex Machina, Blade Runner and the Channel 4 drama, Humans. In fact, this movie so unashamedly rips off Humans, it actually takes an entire character arc and motivation, and places it into this movie like we wouldn’t notice. Well, anyone who has watched those aforementioned films, will immediately draw comparisons here.

Simulant is set in a near future, where AI lives among us, courtesy of a synth company called Nexxera. There are four Simulant Principles that all robots must abide by, but if you miss it the first time, Simulant kindly repeats all the rules several times in the movie, uninterrupted, so you won’t forget. The same goes for the explanation around the AICE (Artificial Intelligence Compliance Enforcement), which operate as the synth police. They’re armed with EMP guns, capable of wiping out entire city blocks and stopping synths in their tracks. Remember this key point, dear readers!

Fronting this side of the story is Agent Kessler, who’s sent out on a mission to find a Simulate called Esme, who appears to have become sentient. As he works to track her down, we cut back to a story involving married couple Faye and Evan, although there’s something untoward with Evan, which is slowly unveiled over time.

The story is pretty slow-paced for the most part and this is one of those films that thinks it’s cleverer than it is. You’ll see the twists coming a mile away despite ominous sound design that makes it seem like this is all a big mystery. Still, I’m not going to spoil what these are in this review! Suffice to say, the best part of the plot comes from the organic way these two storylines collide, which is actually pretty good.

But then these moments are held back by some age-old clich├ęs, including the infamous “explain it in simple terms, Doc!” line, and a couple of egregious plot holes and inconsistencies that are hard to overlook. Remember the EMPs I mentioned earlier? Well, they operate as the worst case of deus ex machina in the movie; sometimes they’re used to resolve situations and other times they’re just ignored completely when it doesn’t make sense to do so.

Thematically, Simulant does shine and it touches on a lot of the usual concepts you’d expect here, including free will, freedom, human rights and more. A lot of the characters are rather one-dimensional and there’s actually not a lot of nuance here and you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the humans and the synths. Whether this can be chalked up to bad writing or an intentional move to show how we’re all driven by primitive desires in the end, is up for debate.

Overall, Simulant is fine as a one-time watch if you can look past some of the plot holes and inconsistencies, lowering your expectations in the process. This does have some nice ideas and the acting is pretty good across the board too. It’s certainly not a bad film, but it’s not a particular good one either.


Read More: Simulant Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 5/10

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