Simulant (2023) poster

Simulant (2023)


Canada. 2023.


Director – April Mullen, Screenplay – Ryan Christopher Churchill, Producers – Tim Doiron & James Van Der Woerd, Photography – Russ De Jong, Music – Blitz Berlin, Visual Effects – Urban Post Production (Supervisor – Darren Wall), Special Effects Supervisor – Max MacDonald, Prosthetics/Makeup Effects – Kayla Dobilas, Shaun Hunter, Stephanie Pringle & Erin Sweeney, Production Design – Ingrid Jurek. Production Company – Wango Films/Mongrel Media/Three Point Capital/A Particular Crowd/Crave/Telefilm Canada/Ontario Creates.


Sam Worthington (Agent Aaron Kessler), Robbie Amell (Evan), Jordana Brewster (Faye Aline), Simu Liu (Casey Rosen/Desmond Han), Alicia Sanz (Esme), Masa Lizdeck (Lisa), Christine L. Nguyen (Ying), Conrad Coates (Supervisor Abenjor)


The use of lifelike androids known as simulants that are created by the Nexxema Corporation has become widespread. Following his death in a car accident, Faye has had a simulant made of her husband Evan. She now has to make Evan aware that he is artificial, not a human. At the same time, Aaron Kessler, an agent of Artificial Intelligence Compliance Enforcement, which polices rogue simulants, discovers a simulant has been made of his late wife Esme. Aaron realises that he is dealing with Casey Rosen, a rogue designer who is determined to break the ethical conditioning on the simulants and allow them to be free. Faye has increasing difficulty with Evan’s attachment to her and places him in a hotel. There Evan is contacted by Casey, promising to show him how to reunite with Faye if he will allow him to remove his controls.

Simulant was the eighth film for Canadian director April Mullen who has previously made a variety of comedies, action films and thrillers. A couple of these have spilled over into genre material with the zombie film Dead Before Dawn 3D (2012) and the alternate timelines film 88 (2015). Mullen also makes acting appearances in a number of these films and others.

Simulant falls into the rising number of A.I. films we have seen since the mid-2010s. These include standout works like Spike Jonze’s Her (2013) and Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015), as well as a host of other offerings that include The Machine (2013), Automata (2014), Chappie (2015), Uncanny (2015), Morgan (2016), tv’s Westworld (2016-22), Tau (2018), Zoe (2018), Archive (2020), After Yang (2021), Finch (2021), The Artifice Girl (2022), M3gan (2022) and The Creator (2023), among others. See Films About Artificial Intelligence and Films About Androids.

Jordana Brewster shows Robbie Amell that he is an android in Simulant (2023)
Jordana Brewster shows husband Robbie Amell that he is an android

Simulant feels a familiar reshuffling of themes and plot devices from most of the abovementioned – the person who makes the discovery that they are an android; the androids discovering self-awareness; the machines shutting off their safety protocols and gaining freedom. Even the Four Precepts that the machines are programmed with are a blatant copy from Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. The plot of android spouses and a revolutionary underground trying to hack them was also used in Wifelike (2022), which appeared seven months prior. Not to mention the law enforcement agency set up to track down the rogue androids goes back to Blade Runner (1982) – here Sam Worthington is outfitted with a nifty ability to fire an EMP pulse across a city block, leaving all simulants within the zone frozen in position (although you do suspect that this would have quite a damaging effect on any nearby computer systems).

It is a nicely made film with a perfectly capable cast. April Mullen places care and attention on things like lighting of her rooms, while choosing modernist (Toronto) locations that suggest a futurism. However, there is nothing particularly original, no new spins placed on the treatment of any of the ideas, just the regurgitation of previous treatments of themes.

Trailer here

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