Review: Tau (2018)

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If you have seen my reviews for Close and Polar, you will already know that Tau was the third film we watched in a Netflix binge one night, but unlike the other two, I had not heard or seen anything about this A.I. thriller beforehand, although with Gary Oldman and Ed Skrein in the mix, I was all for it.

Renowned scientist and CEO of a large A.I. company, Alex Upton (Ed Skrein) is working on his next big project, the next evolution of Artificial Intelligence, and he needs to complete more research into the human mind and emotions in order to develop it but it’s fair to say that is test subjects are not there on a voluntary basis and petty thief Julia (Maika Monroe) is his latest victim. In a bid to escape, Julia attempts to reason with and befriend Tau (voiced by Gary Oldman), the A.I. system that controls the house.

You would be forgiven for thinking that this film will follow the usual tropes that are associated with artificial intelligence, but Tau offers something a little different. This isn’t a case of A.I. eventually overthrowing the human race in an attempt to ‘save them from themselves’ but is actually a story of an A.I. system that is in fact more human than most. This film is also a great example of how less can be more wherein the vast majority of the film consists solely of the three principal characters; Julia, Alex and Tau.

I did spend the some of the film a little disorientated. Firstly, because I was absolutely certain that they used a snippet of a young Dakota Fanning within a barrage of images during a forced flashback type scene. I was so convinced that I spent 10 minutes or so trying to work out whether Dakota Fanning had had a little bit of work done before I eventually IMDB’d the film and found out that I totally had the wrong actress. Secondly, Ed Skrein looks so scarily like Nicholas Hoult that every time he came on screen I did a double-take. Thankfully, the voice of Gary Oldman was so comfortingly familiar that I managed to maintain my sanity during the one and a half hour runtime.

So now that I have properly established that the actors are in fact the ones billed, I can talk about their individual performances.

As Julia, Monroe was likeable enough but not particularly memorable. No disrespect to her but they could have switched the actress at any point in the movie and I probably wouldn’t have noticed. Although the fact that I have not seen a lot of her previous work may have something to do with my feelings of indifference.

Ed Skrein, on the other hand, has been one of my favourite emerging actors. If you have seen Deadpool, If Beale Street Could Talk, or Alita: Battle Angel you will already know that Skrein makes for a good villain and Tau is no exception. His character, Alex, is sadistic, emotionless and cold,  more robotic than the A.I. system that controls his house. There are a couple of moments where you get an underlying sense of sadness and loneliness but then he throws an almighty tantrum and the feeling is gone.

Whilst Julia does have some good moments, all of the heart of the film is delivered by the vocal talents of Gary Oldman as the titular character. Despite his technological superiority, Tau is, in many respects, a child; innocent and oblivious to the world outside but the more he learns, the more he wants to know. And the more he knows, the more he understands. In many ways, you could argue that this is a coming-of-age film wrapped in the guise of a sci-fi thriller.

Seen it? Let me know your thoughts? If not, grab the popcorn and the blanket, snuggle up on the sofa and settle down for a interesting hour and a half.

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