Sci-fi is a genre one associates with lavish special effects – one which can conjure up depictions of everything from time travel to futuristic alien/robot wars to space exploration. Basically if you have the budget, the canvas is unlimited. Pretty much anything you can imagine can be put onscreen.
Yet, sci-fi is not just about that. What would be the point of such bombast if you didn’t have the interesting themes to back it up. In fact, there’s always been a sub-genre of lower-budget self-contained idea-driven sci-fi running analog to more mainstream cinema, movies which forego such spectacle for explorations, for example, of what it means to be human. And with series like Black Mirror and the recent Twilight Zone reboot, it’s a brand that seems to be back in style.
New 25-minute short Mirrored feels like it could be an episode of one of these shows in the best way possible. Graham Sibley stars as Derek Krat, a gangster who wakes up in an illegal clinic specialising in ressurecting people from the dead. However, he doesn’t recognise his body. As it turns out, there’s been a mix-up in the lab. This Krat is not the real one, just a copy of his conciousness made from when the original used the clinic years ago. In a clerical error, this duplicate has been put into the body of a recently deceased public figure – whose family want to keep his death out of the papers by bringing him back to life as urgently as possible.
To do that, this copy of Krat needs to be terminated. However, the clone doesn’t see himself as a duplicate. He wants to live. At first, he tries reasoning with the doctors of the clinic, the family of the dead public figure and the real Krat (Brian Gant) – who is unsurprisingly against a younger replicant of his personality roaming around. When his pleas fall on deaf ears, however, he relies on his gangster smarts to escape his predicament.
Boasting a similar polished sheen to Black Mirror episodes like ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ and ‘Playtest‘ (all the more impressive given it was made completely independently, the only tell being some patchy supporting performances), Mirrored benefits from staying interior, never venturing out into its futuristic world. As such, viewers are simultaneously intrigued and left wondering about this vision of the future director Bradford Hill has whipped up, while also forced to focus on the central moral dilemma of writer Andrew M. Henderson’s story.
As humanity progresses, the stuff of science fiction is slowly becoming a reality. It’s not too far-fetched that scientists could work out in the future how to use 3D bioprinting to manufacture full clones of ourselves. Similarly, one imagines some day we will be able to reduce the complex inner-workings of our minds to a series of ones and zeroes which could then be transferred into these new copies.
Mirrored ponders the dangers of this potential technology. If it did exist, only the wealthy could probably use it – including those who acquired their fortune through illegal means – essentially meaning the rich can live forever and the poor can’t. Meanwhile, mistakes happen in every type of work. How long would it be before a scenario like Mirrored’s occurs, where a clone’s life must be judged in comparison to its orginal’s? This is despite the fact that to the duplicate, they are the original.
These are themes that have been explored plenty elsewhere (off the top my head Blade Runner, Moon and Altered Carbon come to mind) and on bigger budgets. That said, Mirrored’s tight stripped-back approach to its material helps it stand-out in a over-populated sci-fi landscape, rising above its shoe-string financing.