For a first-time effort from just about everybody involved in this movie, "Cl.One" is a pretty good film (and, no, I'm not a cast member or family member of director Jason J. Tomaric). I like science fiction and I've seen my share of good and bad low-budget films. This one was made for under $25000, an achievement that puts it right into the sphere of such other gems as "El Mariachi," "Halloween" and "I Was A Teenage Werewolf."
The plot deals with a post-Apocalyptic society that seems to have recovered somewhat from a massive nuclear war. Unfortunately, every attempt at procreation ends in failure because fallout has caused infertility. So, the post-war government (an infamous "one world order") has created clones that are free of mutations and defects. Unfortunately, the clones need a consciousness and a soul, preferably from someone with good genes.
But, the down side is that a formed mind can't be put into a clone because you can't download a conscious mind into a clone (it took, say, 18 years to form the mind and downloading it in a matter of minutes would destroy the clone mind). Trying to erase memories with drugs or electronically would cause brain damage, thus candidates to activate the clones must be manipulated mentally to the verge of wanting to die.
The gist of the story centers around Derek Strombourg, the heavy-handed chancellor of New Athens, who desperately wants to find "the one" -- the person whose genes will finally activate the clones. He's not your usual bad guy in that he does have a soul and a conscience; he's just one of those guys who believes so much in his goal that he convinces himself that the end justifies the means. The target of his means is a young student named Orin Stalward who fits the profile to a tee and who Strombourg must destroy mentally (and subtly) while keeping his Utopian society in one piece.
Mayhaps that's the biggest flaw in "Cl.One." Science fiction tends to need a heavy, a bad guy who is recognizable, someone the audience can hate -- a Darth Vader, a Sauron. In the absence of that, the audience needs well thought out characters to believe, but Tomaric can't deliver that. In order to make his film, he had to use many first-time actors. The biggest name on the marquee is Charles Eduardos ("American Splendor"). The actors, including Jeff St. Clair as Strombourg, Bill Caco as Stalward, Gary Skiba as Joshua Adams and Valerie Renee Law as Mira, hold their own admirably, but can't flesh out their characters enough.
Despite what the other reviewers have said, this film is a visual splendor, a stunning achievement with a low budget. The CGI is admirable, save maybe for a train crash near the end. The sets are remarkable, considering they consist of places found in and around Cleveland, Ohio, including a city hall, a NASA facility, a museum and a brewery (sort of reminds me of "Quatermass 2" where a Shell Oil refinery substituted nicely for an alien base). The sound was nice and I had no problem hearing the dialog. And the ending was a trip; it definitely caught me off-guard, but in a good way, not a sappy, contrived "Matrix Revolutions" kind of way.
The only sfx thing I had a hard time buying was the built-up status of New Athens. The film is set four years after a nuclear war, yet New Athens looks like a futuristic city built up over decades. And I can't imagine enough technology existing to come up with flying cars and futuristic trains.
Admittedly, the film's low budget and Tomaric's novice status hurt the film's potential. A "making of..." vignette on the DVD explains that Tomaric was forced to rewrite, re-film and re-edit the movie many times over the course of seven (!) years. A catalog of deleted scenes reveals that some of them should have been used in the movie. Still, the film won many independent film awards and deservedly so.
For viewers expecting a Hollywood-style film, don't look for it here. But, don't trash it for what it isn't. Watch it for what it is -- a good film with excellent special effects that looks like it was made for a huge budget. And then wonder what Tomaric and his crew could do with a real budget.
Review by pv71989-2 from the Internet Movie Database.