Netflix released another original movie on Friday. The sci-fi thriller, ‘Tau received more negative reviews than they would probably like. However, despite the many critical responses, I found a lot to like about it.
The plot of ‘Tau’ revolves around an artificial intelligence. The scientist that created it has kidnapped subjects to perform tests on that will further the research. The presence of an A.I. in the story clearly led viewers to believe it would have the depth of ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘Ex Machina’. The plot is far more simplistic than those films, but that’s okay.
Protagonist Julia is forced to undergo cognitive tests which give an insight into how humans tick. The scientist can then improve his work by making the program as close to a thinking mind as possible. As you can imagine things go south from there.
It doesn’t explore the ethics of creating synthetic life like ‘Ex Machina’, it just uses robotics as a plot device to create jeopardy and cool special effects. The sophistication of ‘Tau is in its visuals. The set dressing and directing cooperate to make every frame beautiful.
There are some great lighting techniques. Especially when Alex first appears. His face is obscured by shadow because his identity and motives are unknown. It also makes him seem more threatening. There are rooms in the building that are lit up in blue or red, this makes it look like an abattoir.
Just because the movie’s strongest aspect is the visuals, doesn’t mean there aren’t clever techniques in the story.
The word ‘Tau’ is a clever name for the A.I. as it is a real term for a problem with the brain. Tau is a protein created when head trauma causes the brain to bleed. Symptoms of CTE are caused by this process such as mental illness and memory loss.
This is a direct reference to the human emotion Julia intills in the A.I. which Alex considers to be glitches.
Ed Skrein and Maika Monroe put on a good performance in their respective lead roles. Gary Oldman’s voice acting becomes gradually more emotive as the robotic mind develops an understanding of emotion, a nice touch. Other than the three core cast members though the acting is quite wooden.
The themes and characters could have been developed further, of course. However, I found this to be a really fun piece of escapism, with some really clever details. Don’t expect a cerebral exploration of free will and the hubris of man. ‘Tau is more like a fun sci-fi B-movie.