TV review: Altered Carbon, Netflix (3 stars)

TV review: Altered Carbon, Netflix

High concept big budget sci-fi questions ideas of morality, humanity, wealth and power

In this ambitious, big budget Netflix adaptation of Richard K Morgan's noir cyberpunk novel humans can live forever thanks to technological advancement. Set more than 300 years in the future the wealthy take full advantage of their status by cloning versions of themselves, so they can upload 'stacks' (their digitised consciousness) into their bodies, but there is also the option of changing appearance by buying or renting human 'sleeves.' Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) is a soldier, or Envoy, who is reborn in a new sleeve 250 years after his death by Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) to investigate his murder.

There are a lot of respected names attached to this ten-part science-fiction series, including creator Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) and Game of Thrones director, Miguel Sapochnik. The brutal blood and splatter and sex and nudity of GoT are abundant as too are themes of wealth and power, but so is the Hollywood influence with the show not only recalling Blade Runner but also 90s sci-fi films such as Demolition Man and Timecop. Production designer Carey Meyer (Firefly) brings the style of Ridley Scott's film to the small screen via the grimy, sodden, neon lit streets and the grand mansion of Bancroft – who lives above everyone else like a god along with the rich elite. Kovacs lodges down below in a hotel called The Raven run by Poe (Chris Connor who turns in a fantastic performance as an Edgar Allen-alike).

The writers develop challenging ideas about humanity and mortality while also building suspense and mystery, and there's at least one thrilling action sequence in every episode yet lead actor Kinnaman and his bulging muscles aren't nearly as impressive. Martha Higareda as tough cop, Kristin Ortega, Will Yun Lee and Dichen Lachman turn in notably big action performances that are also stirring and engaging thanks to expressive performances.

Altered Carbon premieres on Netflix, Fri 2 Feb.