REVIEW: THE ARCHIVIST (2021, Last Highway Films)

In the not so distant future, 2070 to be exact, Caulder Benson (Eric Hand) is a government archivist officer set with the audacious task of destroying all elements of society’s past. A futuristic sci-fi western style style unfolds in a stylistic and uncompromising fashion which you’ll be hard pushed to pigeonhole.

Eric Hand’s The Archivist surprised me from the opening scene right up until its epic finale. I was gripped from the get-go and shocked that a film could more of less act out like a compilation of my favourite movies and characters but some how do it in a mesmerising way. Beautifully shot on 35mm film, The Archivist looks like the films it takes influence from but ends up surpassing them with its unrelentless barrage of violence, comedy and action.

The sky is most certainly the limit with The Archivist as we are served a no-holds barred cocktail of flamethrowers, explosions, gunfire, motorbikes, aircraft flying and car chases. I wasn’t expecting to see so many high risk stunts and to see them all done perfectly with precision left me speechless. I’ve always wondered what could have been if Hobo With A Shotgun (2011) had received a sequel or spin-off purely based on The Plague and it probably wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as this. Seriously, The Archivist blew my expectations clean-off from the very start and my heart was in my mouth all the way through it.

Imagine The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (1966) mixed with Mad Max (1979) with Street Trash (1987) and Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and you are still not even close! The Archivist is one of the craziest mishmash of styles I’ve seen in a very long time and it pulls it off with ease. Despite how out of the box it may seem it isn’t a million miles away from reality in its portrayal of a modern 1984 society or a poke at the Video Nasties era of the 80’s. If you violate the New Order you will be punished by torture or death…

If you are sick of seeing overuse of CGI in movies, you have come to the right place. The Archivist throws artificial cosmetics and trickery in the garbage can as it focuses solely on practical effects. Everything is real and it makes it extra special seeing it on a 35mm print. This is very much Tarantino style filmmaking and it sets its stakes high and reaps in the rewards.

With a run time of 110 minutes, The Archivist is by no means a short visit but time flies by and you’ll be gutted when the end is near. It is rare to come across an indie film which manages to push beyond a 90 minute standard without feeling stretched or dragged out. The pacing is so well done that barely a second goes by without something happening and it is impossible to look away.

The script is water tight but totally bonkers at the same time. The characters are developed carefully without force and the scenes fit like a glove throughout. Every character has their own gimmick and original one-liners (or sounds) and it all works a treat. I would be hard pushed to pick a favourite as I loved them all. The acting is great throughout, you can tell the cast had fun playing their characters and no-one took it too seriously.

In the sound department the film hits home with its crisp sound effects and voiceovers. It sounds like it is from the future but done in the past. This is otherworldly and simply incredible. Without exaggerating, The Archivist has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard and I can’t get it out of my head (nor do I want to!).

The Archivist is a masterpiece in independent filmmaking which needs to be seen to be believed. It is a rare treat to watch a film which hits the spot in so many areas. You simply have to see this film and let it melt your brain. Enjoy the trip, I most certainly did.

Score: 5 / 5

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