Jun 30, 2018
Welcome back to Streaming Saturdays! It’s another science fiction Netflix Original film, which have been hit or miss so far this year. Want to see for yourself? Check out Episode #044 (“The Cloverfield Paradox”), Episode #055 (“Mute”), Episode #090 (“The Titan”), Episode #101 (“Orbiter 9”), and Episode #125 (“Anon”). Let us know what you think at onemoviepunch.com.
Today’s movie is “Tau” (2018), the Netflix Original science fiction thriller directed by Federico D’Alessandro and written for the screen by Noga Landau. The film follows Julia (Maika Monroe), a woman snatched off the streets by Alex (Ed Skrein) and held hostage at his smart home, operated by an advanced artificial intelligence named Tau (Gary Oldman). However, Julia is changing the nature of Tau’s programming, and uses that advantage to attempt escape before being killed for scientific experiments.
One trend I have loved seeing evolve this year is the use of ultra-sharp digital effects for subtle storytelling. The amazing advances in video editing, even with off-the-shelf software, have made telling science-fiction stories, especially near-future or future-tech thrillers, way more engaging, and when used properly, they let us focus more on the story than the dazzling effects. “Tau” succeeds in that vein, even while having a not-so-subtle giant murderous robotic housekeeper as well.
Artificial intelligence like Tau are still a few years out, but we’re already surrounded by varying degrees of AI. It can be as simple as temperature control or as advanced as AlphaGo (Episode #004), or somewhere in the middle like Alexa and Siri. One of the major questions right now about AI is how we intend to program it, a conversation started by Asimov’s robot laws and continuing today, finding a proper balance between nature (base programming) and nurture (flexible learning). Landau’s script explores the complicated philosophical discussions in a simplified manner, utilizing both Julia and Tau, and the relationship between them.
“Tau” also has its rough parts, though, especially the final sequence, which feels really overdone. The house demolition protocol feels unnecessarily drawn out, especially when enough C4 could destroy the entire structure in a single detonation instead of a weird crumbling deal. Worse yet, rubbing a severed hand to warm it up so the panels will recognize it more than once feels forced. If the themes the film explored weren’t so well done, I would have knocked off a few points out of principle. And yet, the final scene, once all the escaping is done, actually brought me back to the possibilities of this film, and for that, it gets a pass on a little cheese.
“Tau” (2018) is a decent science-fiction escape thriller, with its strengths and weaknesses, but does explore themes regarding artificial intelligence without feeling like a philosophical lecture. It could also be the template for one kiss ass escape room, especially if you had to teach an AI to help you as part of the mystery. Fans of science-fiction or escape thrillers should definitely check out this film, but be ready for a bit of cheese.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 7.6/10
“Tau” (2018) is rated R and is currently streaming on Netflix.