TL;DR – TAU is one of those films where there is an interesting core of an idea here, but then really the movie spends almost all of its time not exploring it.
Score – 2 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no Post-Credit Scene
Watching a good film can be joyful, watching a bad film can at least be interesting, but watching a film that clearly had potential only to not deliver on it … well, that can be torturous. This week we look at TAU a film that unfortunately falls into the latter category. It is a film that is trying to take the AI computer genre in a different direction but unfortunately falls into just being a pastiche of other films, and not even a very good version of that.
So to set the scene, Julia (Maika Monroe) works as a thief who lifts things like mobile phones out of people pockets as she dances with them in clubs. Her life is one of masks, hiding behind wigs and outfits as she plies her trade in a very precarious world. Well, one day as she is leaving a club with a purse full of assorted things she stole she is unbeknownst tailed home by Alex (Ed Skrein) who breaks into her house and injects her with a concoction. When she wakes up she is bound by the hands and with a cover over her mouth so she can’t talk to the other people in her cell. After being subjected to some painful tests she works on a way on getting out of her prison, and one explosion later she is almost free until one of her group accidentally activates TAU (Gary Oldman) the house’s inbuilt AI who methodically kills everyone bar Julia and is only stopped from doing that by Alex coming home. Alex needs her brain to finish the program he is working on, so there is a small window for Julia to plot her escape.
You can see right from the start that this film that there are a lot of influences that they are drawing from, you can see hints of Saw, 10 Cloverfield Lane (see review), 2001: A Space Odyssey (see review), and more. Now there is nothing wrong with taking influences from the past and bringing it into your films, nearly every film does it, indeed some of my favourite films of all time like Hot Fuzz are completely built around this. However, if this is what you are going to do, you need to elevate it in some way, is it a commentary on the genre, are you subverting it, are you paying homage to it? The problem is if you are not elevating it all I do as a viewer is watch it and sit there thinking about the better films that I could be seeing.
Part of what hurts the film is just how mono-tonal it all is, from the theme, to the acting, to even the set design. We get only four minutes of the outside world and its grimy texture before we are whisked away into the sterile world of Alex’s house, where we stay for the remainder of the film. You can have a film set in a single location and have it work really well, see the before mentioned 10 Cloverfield Lane but you need to work on bringing out every detail and the minimalism art style just does not make the film visually engaging after the first five minutes. That singular tone is not just limited to the set design, the acting is all monotonous, especially TAU who comes off being dull most of the time. This is all a problem because when the film starts delving into its much more problematic subject material it has done nothing to invest you in the characters and their plights.
To add to this, if you are going to have a small list of actors in one location, you need to make every moment work to keep people engaged. This means that the actors, directors, editors, writers, frankly everyone has to be giving their A-game and that unfortunately is just not the case here. You can use shorthand in a film to convey certain things, but here it all feels forced and somewhat lazy, like Julia feeds stray animals so she must be secretly good even though all we have seen of her so far is a thief, or Alex must be a bad guy because he is anal about how his tools are laid out, though he then does not notice one of them is missing. Now it is not that there are no interesting things going on here, for example, I liked the way the mini-drones cleaned up after the murder, and some of the bonding between Julia and TAU, but just that it never overcomes the dullness of everything else. Now, it is clear that they were working on a shoestring budget but I’m sorry I’m not sure that is a good excuse because just recently I watched Upgrade (see review) that has a similarly small budget and is working in a similar thematic space, and it is leaps and bounds more engaging.
In the end, do we recommend TAU? Unfortunately not, while it is not all bad, I think overall the fact that it was on Netflix was a saving grace, because I don’t know if I would have been as kind if I had paid money to go see it. It is just that this film showed so much promise and then turned out a dull paint-by-numbers film that failed to capitalise on it, and that is just such a pity.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of TAU
Directed by – Federico D’Alessandro
Written by – Noga Landau
Music by – Bear McCreary
Cinematography by – Larry Smith
Edited by – Scott Chestnut
Starring – Maika Monroe, Ed Skrein, Gary Oldman, Fiston Barek & Ivana Zivkovic
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: na; Germany: na; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: na; United States: R