After the train wreck of The First Purge, I really wanted a palette-cleanser and, well, I was up waiting for my laundry to finish anyway, so I took my chances on Netflix, and I came across this movie. Tau is a sci-fi thriller starring Maika Monroe, Ed Skrein, and Gary Oldman voicing the AI named Tau, directed by Federico D'Alessandro, and was released on June 29 on Netflix.
Look out because there are...
SPOILERS AHEAD!! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!
I thought this film had done really well for using a minimal cast in a limited number of locations. I actually didn't even know that Tau was voiced by Gary Oldman until the very end at the credits. I already enjoy Oldman's performances but to be surprised by one was new and refreshing.
One of the positives to this movie was that there was definitely a rise in tension throughout as the stakes rose. Counting down time does have that affect when written correctly. Julia's movement (Maika Monroe) adapting to the environment and situation seemed relatively realistic as opposed to making her one-dimensional. It added a level of interest in her character I found refreshing... did I say refreshing yet?? *takes a deep breath* Ahh...
Another thing I liked was that they had an interesting way of implementing fear into the machine that I've not really seen before. Being able to have an AI act as if a creature threatened by its authority figure is a great way to build tension and add another level of psychosis to the story, and it was implemented well enough to keep the story moving forward.
What stuck out to me from the beginning was the level of darkness Alex had with kidnapping his victims and implanting the devices into them. He rose to a level of psychotic easily from the start, which is always good when it's not overplayed or forced.
One of the downsides to this film was some of the strange assumptions the story made. The writer (Noga Landau) took a lot of liberty to have audiences suspend belief to make certain plot points work. For instance, the AI machine that's supposedly built up to be self-learning somehow has no concept of what a "person" is at all. It's literally dealt with people (at least 13 people) every day of its existence so I didn't think that was well thought out. Another big one is the portrayal of pain in the machine. I get that adding pain and fear added another dimension to Tau, but it was still a bit of a stretch to consciously put myself back into the fantasy.
Another problem I had was with Alex's character (Ed Skrein). I think Skrein did a great job playing him, but I found it awkward trying to justify his reasons of why he's even experimenting on people he's kidnapped. Was Julia just a random person? I don't think I caught his reasoning for targeting her specifically or any of his subjects for that matter. You would think someone like him would have some sort of method to his madness, but I found that extremely lacking character-wise. It absolutely pulled me out of the creepiness from the beginning by trying to humanize him with corporate and money problems.
One of my biggest qualms was the plot hole of the small drone retaining a memory of the old, non-wiped Tau. This led to the second weird moment at the very end when Julia takes the drone to the outside world and it's just like, "yeah, I'm here." I felt like it was that end of Finding Nemo with all the fish in bags saying, "now what?" I thought the drones were NOT autonomous and controlled by the centralized whole that is Tau located within the building. Wouldn't that separation make every single drone less about the main computer of Tau's AI? It really doesn't matter if it just happened to be outside some fading lights - it felt like a throwaway solution to move the story forward. Tau had full and complete range of its drones everywhere including into the bedroom. Was that some sort of dead Wi-Fi zone that was never really mentioned or discovered? I knew he was building it up, but Alex threw it over there after he saw the drone was busted. But again, every bit of Tau's "memory" was supposedly wiped, so why would the little drone help her?? Even more-so, why would it still recognize her at all in those closing moments before dying once it was reconnected to the whole?
I made the mistake of reading some of the headline reviews on Rotten Tomatoes when looking up information about this movie after watching it and a lot of people weren't happy with it. I will say that it's listed as a Thriller and a Psychological Thriller on Netflix, but I would say that it works a bit better as a Sci-Fi or Psych Thriller more than a Thriller. Though the stakes were definitely raised throughout, I didn't feel the "thriller" side of it per se except in the beginning. One thing I didn't agree with in the reviews was that some complained that it was an old story. So the fuck what?? There's no new story structures out there, only new elements added to the old structures, so please just let that sore excuse for why you want to bitch about a movie die already. The ones that aren't cohesive story-wise or don't stick to the universal laws they establish of the world they're building are the ones that piss me off the most. Unless you're doing an Anti-Plot genre or style, then please stick to something with as little plot holes as possible.
Overall, this movie did a really good job at establishing the entertainment factor albeit some slow parts in the story, and the liberty taken on the suspension of belief it asked you to take for the sci-fi aspect. If you've got some time, check it out on Netflix.
If anyone hasn't realized yet, my Hooligan Reviews are just my take on movies right after seeing them the first time as to maintain an original reaction as opposed to a facsimile of one after some time has passed or after multiple viewings. We feel it's way more authentic that way. If you love or hate a movie, agree or disagree with our analysis, then that's all well and good. We're really not trying to bash or hate on any production companies or films but rather just make our reviews a bit more fun to read in the way we know how that also makes sense to us. I guess I should have said that in my last review, but alas - here we stand! That being said, go watch movies and take them as the entertainment pieces they're made to be! Everyone has different tastes and no one film is going to satisfy every single person. Any filmmaker that believes that is drinking that D-Lusional Juice they passed around at film school which is surprisingly the same juice they dispense in Disney's employee lounge areas. Don't drink the juice, Folks. Stay clean.
Written by: J. Hooligan
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