The titular Zone 414 is an enclosed colony of humanoids, which is also dubbed the City of Robots, and when the daughter of the colony’s billionaire creator (Travis Fimmel) goes missing, a private investigator (Guy Pearce) is hired to venture into the zone to find her.
What ensues is a familiar journey into a futuristic world of high-tech cityscapes with neon billboards and blurred lines. Presumedly all of the city’s residents are androids, yet the possibility of humans amongst them is all too real, and as such the concept lends itself to a highly stylised and sophisticated film noir.
STACK sat down to chat with the film’s star Guy Pearce over Zoom to talk about the film and he leans into the conversation by explaining how the production narrowly avoided the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic
“It was one of the few films that I had lined up. I had done Without Remorse in December of 2019 in Berlin, and then this was January and February of 2020. And then I went to Pennsylvania to do seven days on Mare of Easttown, with my first day being the twelfth of March. And of course by that point we were all aware of the pandemic and everything was shutting down around us. I had done the one day on Mare of Easttown and then we shut down.” Adding with quip, “But obviously back in the olden days of January and February of 2020 it didn’t seem like a problem, so we managed to get Zone 414 done in time, and thankfully with Andrew (Baird) at the helm we made a good film and got it done before we were shut down.”
Zone 414 marks director Andrew Baird’s feature debut, having come from the world of music videos (including The Weeknd’s Kissland and Korn’s Take Me) and Guy talks about the collaboration the two of them enjoyed.
“He’s a clever guy who had a really good vision of what this could be, and certainly based within the budgetary constraints – I mean it’s not a big film by any means – what felt great about this and rang true to me, particularly as an Aussie actor, is that we take a great idea and a great story, and something that feels true and emotional and relevant, and we go ‘what’s the best version of that we can put on the screen with the limited time and budget that we have, you know? And Andrew was really simpatico, you know? He’s not a big budget guy himself even though he’s done some pretty cool and expensive music videos, but what he was interested in is what I was interested in, which is the psychology that exists between two characters.”
“What felt great about this and rang true to me, particularly as an Aussie actor, is that we take a great idea and a great story…”
The dynamic he is explaining is between himself and Matilda Lutz who plays an android who dreams of becoming human. Their chemistry is unmistakable and lends the film its gravitas.
“Even though it’s set somewhere in the near future and it’s about a technology that might eventuate, really it’s a human story. And in a way it relates to the sense of identity that we’re all trying to find, and we all feel is even harder to find in this modern world with technology, and the fact we all communicate through little robots we call our telephones. So in amongst that there is a beating heart and emotional drive that I think lays at the heart of this film. So it was kind of interesting on a number of bigger levels, but it was also lovely and intimate and Andrew was really across all of that.”
Also co-starring as the film’s antagonist is an unrecognisable Travis Fimmel (Vikings), who underwent painstaking hours in the makeup chair to achieve his scarred and butchered appearance; an experience Guy knows too well from his role in Prometheus.
Describing Fimmel’s character and overall performance Guy laughs “Ah, yeah those hours in makeup, but of course it was his doing and he wanted to. Travis is lovely and hilarious, and what was great is that, I think.” adding with a sense of facetiousness “when you are born with such beauty and you want to be taken seriously you do everything you possibly can to get away from it.”
Fimmel’s performance in Zone 414 is thoroughly engaging and with such a confronting appearance he offers a well measured sense of humanity and villainy. Guy elaborates on his cast mate’s work on the film with evident respect. “I mean it isn’t just about Trav’s perspective on himself. I think what was really important and what he brought to the film was this idea that he’s playing a man who’s trying to create a perfect world, and as we know there are people out there who do so much work and plastic surgery on themselves that they end up not looking human anymore. They’re sort of running away from themselves rather than getting to the heart of themselves, and the notion of doing another thing, and then another thing, and another thing, that the search is eventually going to reach some sort of climax, and Trav wanted to play somebody who clearly isn’t satisfied with how he looks. So while he’s creating these androids and robots, he’s also trying to create himself. It was fascinating to be on set with him.”
Although Zone 414 certainly bares a strong sense of deja-vu and looks to be made from the same cloth as Blade Runner (both films share a producer), it shirks off any suggestions of being a clone with its aforementioned themes of belonging and personal dysmorphia. Fans of Ridley Scott’s seminal masterpiece ought to pay attention because Zone 414 reveals itself to be a respectable detective story that could have easily occupied the same universe, but also steps outside of those perimeters, holding its own as a smart and intricate science fiction thriller.