Archive Movie Explained (2020 Plot Analysis and Ending)

Hi, this is Barry and welcome to my site. Archive is a 2020 science-fiction film directed by Gavin Rothery; it’s his first full-length feature film. The film is set in a future time when technology has enabled storing a dead person’s consciousness for a finite period. Archive’s cast includes Theo James, Stacy Martin and Rhona Mitra in the lead roles. It’s a lovely film produced within a small budget and sports some very impressive CGI. It’s definitely worth the watch. Here’s the plot analysis and ending of the movie Archive explained; spoilers ahead.

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Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:

Archive Movie Ending Explained: What happened in the end?

Ending scene of the movie Archive

The ending of the movie Archive shows us that George is the one who died in the car accident. It is his consciousness that has been saved in analogue format, not Jules’. Everything we’ve seen in the movie Archive is a construct of both location and events created by George’s consciousness. The facility, the robots (J1, J2, J3), Simone, the company, the project – none of it exists. 

George died with guilt in his mind because he was driving the car on manual mode. He believes, had the car been on autopilot, it would have known to avert the accident. Whether that is true or not, the guilt in George’s mind is real. His consciousness cooks up an imaginary world where his pregnant wife died and where he’s been building versions of robots in Japan that can host his wife’s consciousness. In the end, he realizes that he is the one who’s dead and hears his daughter say goodbye to him as this consciousness fades away.

Archive Movie Explained: Plot Walkthrough

Now let’s go through the movie’s events in chronological order to help understand the film better.

Who are George and Jules?

George and Jules are a happy couple living in a future time; Jules is pregnant with their child. We have self-driving high-speed cars and technology that can extract and store the consciousness of dead people for years. George is a robotics engineer, and he’s been looking to get a research grant. He happens to receive three years of solid research with a deliverable prototype at the end of it, but the catch is that they need to move to Yamanashi, Japan.

What is Archive?

The Archive is a technology that can extract and store a dead person’s consciousness in analogue format to allow 200 hours of interaction with the deceased. While Jules is against it, George goes ahead and registers them both. Jules is furious when she gets to know that she, too, has been signed up and demands that it is cancelled. George probably cancels her registration but keeps his intact.

The Accident

George prefers driving his car, and he doesn’t trust the AI-powered auto-drive. On the ride where George tells Jules about his three-year research grant, they meet with an accident. Contrary to what the audience is made to believe, George dies, and Jules survives. Since George was signed up for Archive, his consciousness is ported on to a device. Over about 4 years, Jules has been visiting and chatting with George’s analogue consciousness. 

Which parts of the movie Archive are real?

Only the flashbacks leading up to the car crash are real. Everything else that George has been doing in Japan is created by his consciousness as a coping mechanism and is not real. Also, that final scene of Jules and her daughter is real. Let’s take a look at that first call between Jules and George over the device:

Jules: How’s my man?
George: You know, missing you a lot. Same as usual.
Jules: Missing you too. So, not going out? All work, no play, huh?
George: You know me.
Jules: Yeah. I do know you. (crying) I really hope you’re happy there.
George: You know, it’s beautiful here.
Jules: I just can’t do this anymore.
George: Don’t say that.
Jules: Talk like this… it’s just too hard.
George: Jules, listen to me.
Jules: I’m sorry. Goodbye, George. I love you. (Hangs Up)

Jules was never in favour of this extension of a dead person’s consciousness. But knowing that George is still notionally alive, she’s unable to stay away either. Over the years, she’s been making contact, but it has never gone past abrupt conversations. This is why George has never come to terms with the fact that he is the dead one. 

Who is Simone?

George’s consciousness has assumed Jules is dead and comes up with an elaborate story of him working in Japan for a corporate trying to build the prototypes. Simone is his reporting manager expecting results from the robots he’s working on. Archive is the company funding George’s project apart from them being a consciousness retaining company in this narrative. None of this really matters because they aren’t actual events; they aren’t real.

Then who are Melvin and Vincent Sinclair?

These two folks belong to Archive in the real world. They must have been people that George met before the accident when he signed up for Archive. His mind has projected them as mysterious people looking to shut him down before he can complete his secret project. In the end, when Jules takes her last call, we can see Vincent and Melvin standing by to offer their condolence. They’re just two employees working for Archive in the real world. In George’s imagination, he has reincarnated them two be shadowy people looking to expose what George is up to.

What is George up to in the movie Archive?

Archive J2

In his post-death fantasy, George has been working on an advanced robot (J3) with a biochemical element. His first prototype, J1, gains the mental age of a 6-year-old, beyond which it’s unable to advance. Using this, George builds J2, which stops advancing at the mental age of 15 years. Finally, he builds J3 which becomes entirely ready to take on an adult mind’s capabilities. George has used an analogue signal of Jules’ to get from J1 to J2 to J3. Once J3 can operate independently, he plans to erase J3’s personality and replace it with Jules’.

All this that is going on is a way for George’s consciousness to keep itself occupied. Remember, this is a couple of years we’re talking about. How do we know? Well, the age of the daughter was between 3 and 4, add 8 months of pregnancy. Unlike a human being, consciousness might not really sleep. This is far too many years for a mind to live in isolation and hence the elaborate mental false world.

Why does J2 commit suicide? What is the significance?

George’s creation process involves getting from one failed robot model to another. The J1 has the mental age of 5-6 years, so it doesn’t have a clue as to what is happening. However, J2 is a teenager who looks up to George as a father figure, but he has unfortunately moved on to build the next model. J2 is jealous of J3 and tries to get rid of it. When George takes away J2’s legs to give it to J3, it is a final blow. J2 feels entirely abandoned and decides to end its life and walks into the lake.

Now, remember, there is no robots in real life. J2 is a part of George’s subconscious. He is guilty about the fact that he drove on manual mode. That he is responsible for the death of his wife and child. Inside his consciousness, he creates a situation where his neglect results in the death of J2, his child. 

Who is J3? What is J3 up to?

J3 is not Jules; it’s a being with its own definition of “self”. George has created J3 using Jules consciousness and memories as a basis. Think of it as a clone. J3 rapidly grows up to be an adult, and thanks to Jules memories, gains a liking for George. J3 intends to replace Jules in George’s life. Now, J3 is not just some figment of imagination inside George’s consciousness; it’s a whole other personality. Here’s why. Take a look at this conversation.

J3: Hello
Jules: Who are you? Where’s George?
J3: George can’t come to the phone right now.
Jules: What’s happened to him?
J3: You don’t need to worry about George. I’ll take care of him once you’re gone.
George: (George takes the phone) Jules, can you hear me?
Jules: George, who was that?

Jules can clearly hear two voices. A consciousness inside Archive seems to have the ability to create a persona that can be heard by the people in the real world. I’m surprised that Jules doesn’t launch a complaint with the company about this incident.

Does George know he is dead?

Archive J1

I think George’s subconscious knows that he might be dead. The reason I feel this is because we’re shown George contact Archive’s support, who tell him that his wife’s signal is now weak and that he should be preparing for the last call. And in reality, his signal is weak, and Jules is planning on her last call with him. Also, in the film’s climax, it is J3 who tells George to not pick up the phone. J3 is part of George’s subconscious, and she seems to know what that call is going to be about.

Archive Movie: The Climax

In the end, George discloses to J3 that he plans on erasing her and replacing her with Jules consciousness. Like any living being, J3 doesn’t want to die. In this case, it is that part of George’s consciousness that doesn’t want to disappear. I believe that right about now, J3 (a fraction of George’s consciousness) becomes aware that George is dead and is fading within Archive. J3 strikes Simone and agrees to be erased. J3 wants George’s consciousness to die believing that he ends up happily with Jules. J3 wakes up acts like she is now Jules; George is overjoyed.

The company’s recovery team that is coming for George and his robots, because he chose to run his own secret sub-project, suddenly disappears. No matter how hard George’s subconscious is trying to protect him from facing the truth about his death, George eventually goes on to pick up the ringing phone. J3 warns him to not pick it up as the truth is bitter.

George answers the phone and realizes that he’s been dead, and Jules is making her final call to him as he is going to fade. She musters up the courage to get their daughter to talk to George, and they say their final goodbyes. Tear rolls down George’s eyes as he confronts the truth and finally fades out of existence.