A man wakes up in a room with walls made of metal, no windows and no earthly idea how he got there. He has a sarcastic robot guard for company. When he attempts to break out of the prison cell, weird things happen -- and by the third scene, you'll probably experience deja vu from the day you watched Ex Machina or Moon.
2016's Infinity Chamber -- currently streaming on Amazon Prime -- essentially follows everyone's favorite "mysterious sci-fi movie" template. There's a foreboding backdrop, clear integration of humanity and technology and an intelligent protagonist who appears to be the voice of reason while grappling with a curious dilemma.
Regardless, its cerebral story immerses you deeply enough to root for the main character through the finish line while he plays a posthuman version of escape-the-room.
And if you make it to the climax, you're in for a treat.
Constructed with an impressively low budget of just $125,000, partially funded by Kickstarter, director Travis Milloy's perplexing film experiments with a complex plot that'll test your ability to predict endings -- and your patience.
While Frank Lerner (Christopher Soren Kelly) tries to leave his forsaken locked-up space, he's panged with lucid dreams of sitting in a quaint coffee shop and speaking to a charming barista named Gabby (Cassandra Clark).
Immediately after, Frank abruptly wakes up once again in his little chamber with only the company of Howard, an assigned machine companion who's reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey's Hal, Interstellar's Tens and Moon's Gerty.
This sequence, which supposedly explains Frank's imprisonment, repeats itself again... and again... and again, giving Infinity Chamber its claustrophobic vibe. All the while, warm and genial robot Howard doesn't have much to say about any of this. Howard's only job is to keep Frank alive.
As the movie progresses, you start to realize what's really going on -- with Frank, Howard and even Gabby.
A self-proclaimed excellent twist-guesser, I was prepared to dismiss Infinity Chamber as a satisfactory retelling of the classic apocalyptic survival story. It's one of a slew of films that involve people puzzling their way out of a box-like room in a dystopian world. Some that fall into that niche genre include 1997's Cube, 2008's Fermat's Room, 2009's Exam and more recently, 2019's Escape Room.
But during the film's last 15 minutes or so, I let out a few involuntary "wait, whats" that were promptly followed by shock-fueled goosebumps. Infinity Chamber sets itself apart by taking overused tropes and adding flavor.
The chamber isn't just a room. Howard isn't merely a snarky AI and the dreams aren't random.
But while Infinity Chamber's ending is satisfying enough to deem the film a solid weeknight grab-a-glass-of-wine-and-chill choice, it's not without shortcomings. Those come from the film's half-baked sub-plots.
The movie introduces a love story, the notion of existing in your own dreams, the question of whether humans can truly bond with artificial intelligence and the ethics of prisons like the one Frank finds himself in.
Instead of delving into those concepts, however, a ton of time is spent rehashing Frank's pain of residing in the metal chamber and building up to the first milestone -- one that's so obvious, I was confused by how it was supposed to be a surprise at all.
Right around the halfway point, Infinity Chamber starts to get slightly boring shortly before picking up again for act three. Perhaps that could've been solved by exploring the film's other juicy sci-fi ideas -- there were so many interesting avenues left untaken.
Even so, from start to finish, Infinity Chamber is a delight. The shoestring budget and limited drawbacks are barely noticeable due to pristine production quality, terrific acting and a smart story chillingly tied together in its final scene -- one that makes the whole hour and 38 minutes 100% worth it.