Empathy, Inc. is a virtual reality thriller for an age of tech cynicism

Photo: Dark Star Pictures

Here’s a science fiction premise you’ve probably heard before: a person encounters a shadowy company that sells hyper-realistic virtual experiences. They’re put into an incredibly vivid simulated reality through some kind of brainwave helmet or injected drug. Then something goes wrong and the protagonist discovers — say it with me now — that the experience isn’t virtual at all.

The new film Empathy, Inc. is nominally one of these stories. Written by author Mark Leidner and directed by Yedidya Gorsetman, the film premiered at the Cinepocalypse festival in 2018, and it’s getting a wider theatrical release this week. But Empathy, Inc. isn’t playing in the same field as mind-bending trips like David Cronenberg’s film eXistenZ or the Black…

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