A man wakes up in a room with no windows and walls made of metal. He doesn’t know how he got there. He finds a sarcastic robot guard for the company. When he tries to break out of the prison cell, strange 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, the apparent integration of humanity and technology, and a wisecracking protagonist who appears to be the voice of reason while grappling with a curious dilemma.
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Regardless, its cerebral story is immersed enough for the main character to root you through the finish line while he plays a posthumous version of Escape-the-Room.
And if you take it to the climax, you’re in for a treat.
Built with an impressively low budget of just $125,000, Partially funded by Kickstarter, director Travis Milloy’s perplexing film experiments with an intricate plot that will test your ability to predict the ending – and your patience.
While Frank Lerner (Christopher Soren Kelly) tries to leave his abandoned lock-up space, he is haunted by lucid dreams of sitting in a quaint coffee shop and talking to a charming barista named Gabby (Cassandra Clarke).
Soon after, Frank suddenly awakens once again in his small chamber with the company of Howard, a Fixed Machine companion reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey Hell, Interstellar Tens and Moon’s Gerty.
This sequence, which supposedly explains Frank’s imprisonment, repeats itself over and over again… and again… and again, giving Infinity Chamber its claustrophobic vibe. All the while, the warm and friendly robot Howard doesn’t have much to say about it. 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-gaiser, I was ready to dismiss Infinity Chamber as a satisfying retelling of the classic apocalyptic survival story. This is one of those movies that involves people walking out of a room like a box in a dystopian world. Some that fall into that specific style include 1997’s Cube, 2008’s Fermat’s Room, 2009’s Examiner, and most recently, 2019’s Escape Room.
But during the last 15 minutes or so of the movie, I let out a few involuntary “Wait, what,” immediately followed by shock-filled goosebumps. Infinity Chamber differentiates itself by adding overused tropes and flavors.
A room is not just a room. Howard is not just a nave AI and dreams are not random.
But while the ending of Infinity Chamber is satisfying enough to make the film a solid weeknight grab-a-glass-of-wine-and-chill choice, it’s not without drawbacks. They come from half-baked sub-plots of the film.
The film introduces a love story, the notion of being existing in your own dreams, the question of whether humans can really bond with artificial intelligence and the morality of the prisons Frank finds himself in.
However, instead of delving into those concepts, a ton of time is spent revisiting Frank’s pain of living in the Metal Room and building up to the first milestone—one that’s so obvious, I was confused. How surprising it must be at all.
Right around the halfway point, Infinity Chamber starts to get a bit boring before it picks up again for Act Three. Perhaps this could have been solved by exploring the film’s other lush science-fiction ideas—there were too many interesting avenues left out.
Still, from start to finish, Infinity Chamber is a delight. The shoestring budget and limited loopholes are barely noticeable due to superb production quality, great acting, and a smart story tied together in its final scene—one that makes the full hour and 38 minutes worth it.