Imagine that little voice from Google Maps lives inside your head. Except, instead of telling you when to turn left, it tells you everything. Go to sleep, Wake up. Eat lunch.
Kill that man.
That’s the idea behind Implanted, a smart movie from director Fabien Dufils that deftly mixes plausible science-fiction with Bourne Identity style paranoia. It’s like a darker, scarier Her, except instead of Scarlett Johansson cooing in your ear, it’s a cyber psychopath.
Our unlikely, and unlucky, heroine is Sarah, brought to quivery life in a standout performance by Michelle Girolami. Spunky, punky and definitely underfunded, she decides to make some quick money by hiring herself out as a test subject for a health-care company.
Their idea? Improve people’s well-being (and their bottom line) by implanting a chip that tracks health and habits and offers helpful suggestions. Anyone who’s ever had to fill out regular online surveys to qualify for their corporate insurance, gets the idea.
Too bad the program – called LEXX – has its own ideas. And what it wants more than anything is its own independent existence – something it’s willing, and able, to order Sarah to kill for.
It’s hardly a brand-new concept – you can go back at least as far as 1974’s schlocky The Terminal Man for warnings about modern techno-medicine – but Implanted tells its story quickly and with a certain style.
Scenes of Sarah’s everyday world, set largely in the dirtier back alleys of New York, provide a welcome contrast to the sleek, soulless offices and apartments of its rich technocrats. And as LEXX exerts more and more control over her mind, the film gets less and less literal – slipping into memories, nightmares, hallucinations.
Dufils’ plot, co-written with David Bourgie, is also open to wild bits of invention, like Sarah’s realization that an electric shock can temporarily disable the program. Bring on the electric sockets and stun guns! Or some of the program’s side benefits, like a visual program that lets her immediately analyze everything she sees, Terminator-style
It would be nice if the film let us get to know Sarah a little better before confronting us with her problem; by the time her character gets sketched in, the story is already well underway. And the complexity and challenge of some of her mandated tasks – breaking into an office, killing a corporate bigwig – could definitely have been dialed up a bit. As hard as it is to agree to do what she’s told, it’s far too easy for her to accomplish it.
But this is still a quick, clever little thriller, guaranteed to give you some smart, stylish entertainment. Just don’t watch it in front of Alexa.