Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Movie Review: "Tau" (2018)

Director: Federico D'Alessandro
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

A young pickpocket named Julia is abducted by a tech billionaire who uses her in his latest experiments to develop the perfect A.I. computer. While in captivity at his home, she creates an unlikely bond with an 'imperfect' A.I. computer that runs the house in the hopes that it will help her escape.
"Do you not obey the person who created you?" (Image Source)
"Tau" is a movie that wants to be a deep psychological sci-fi thriller, but unfortunately isn't as smart as it thinks it is. This film marks the directorial debut of Federico D'Alessandro, who has previously worked as a storyboard artist for movies like "Thor," "Captain America: The First Avenger," and "Iron Man 3." It is written by Noga Landau, who has written episodes for the TV series "The Magicians" and a made-for-TV movie called "The Haunted." It is about a young woman named Julia (Maika Monroe), who ekes out a living as a pickpocket. One evening, she is abducted and wakes up bound and gagged as the subject of some weird emotional experiment. After a failed escape, she works out a deal with her captor, a tech billionaire named Alex (Ed Skrein), who is trying to develop the perfect artificial intelligence by recording emotional responses to certain stimuli......or some bullshit like that. Each day, Alex leaves for his job as the CEO of his own company and leaves Julia imprisoned in his home with the A.I. computer/security system named Tau (Gary Oldman). Tau is a smart house, one that babysits Julia and makes sure she does the tests Alex leaves for her each day. While Alex is away, Julia tries to form a bond with Tau in an attempt to gain its trust so it will help her escape the clutches of her maniacal captor.
"This is the one machine I control." (Image Source)
If you take the visual aesthetic and themes of "Ex Machina," blend it with a little bit of "Short Circuit" where a self-aware computer is in desperate need of 'input,' mix in the entire premise of Disney's "Smart House," minus the sassy Peg Bundy, and dumb it down by half, you get the wannabe slow-burn thriller that is "Tau." Most movies about self-aware machines deal with the same subject: the notion of personhood and whether or not an artificially intelligent machine qualifies as a person. The way "Tau" handles this subject isn't all that interesting. Much of the movie consists of Julia reading encyclopedias to a computer that is too dumb to know she's trying to game the system by gaining its trust. THIS is the thing that's supposed to be a game changer?! She explains to Tau what "outside" is and draws him pretty pictures on his Etch A Sketch wall until her mad captor comes home and yells at her and broods with the same mix of toxicity, richness, and odorous manipulation as Christian Grey. There are fleeting moments of excitement and fun whenever Julia tries to escape, but everything in between drags and makes the movie feel longer than it actually is.

Visually, "Tau" looks really good considering what we're sure is a modest budget. As we mentioned, it has an industrial hi-tech look that combines cold neutral grays with bright colorful neon lights and LED screens. The acting and characters aren't all that layered or nuanced. Everyone is stuck at the surface level giving mediocre performances of mediocre material. The story fails to fully explore its themes in an interesting or unique manner. Plot lines are hinted at, only to be dropped by the wayside. That being said, as a whole, the film isn't bad enough to make you hate that you watched it.
"I'm on the cusp of something that is going to change the world." (Image Source)
"Tau" winds up being yet another shiny-but-vapid-and-forgettable Netflix original film that tries to make the audience think we're ready to completely embrace our robo-overlords until we give them sentience. It ain't gonna happen, Smart House. Wait......they make refrigerators that can talk now?!! Ahhhhh, shit!!

My Rating: 4.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 4.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~5.7/10
RT Rating: ~33%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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