Set in the near future, Netflix’s latest original film TAU pits human versus AI in an ambitious but ultimately uninspired sci-fi thriller.
Pickpocket Julia (rising genre star Maika Monroe) is kidnapped from her apartment by an unhinged genius (Ed Skrein) whose house is patrolled and maintained by a high-caliber AI system named TAU (voiced by Gary Oldman). Julia, along with other captives, must discover an exit strategy before Alex (Skrein) can meet his deadly scientific deadline.
Directed by Uruguayan filmmaker Federico D’Alessandro as his debut film, it is clear to see his previous work in the film industry as part of the art department. The very best aspects of TAU come in D’Alessandro’s use of light and shadows. Before our antagonist is revealed, the handling of shadows creates a build up of tension and the utilization of bright and glowing colours really highlights the claustrophobic nature of the house that Julia is trapped in. However, after a promising start, the film sadly loses steam.
During its second act, TAU’s pacing loses all sense of the word. The transitional scenes, as Julia attempts to turn Alex’s greatest asset against him in order to survive, seem highly repetitive and what little tension was there to begin with is completely lost. Accompany that with a less than menacing CGI robot bodyguard and its going to be difficult to recover heading into the final act. That being said, the remainder of its 97 minute runtime is just about held together by the performances of our three leads especially that of Maika Monroe. Her previous body of work (It Follows, The Guest) shows just how much of a star she really is, as she manages to turn something truly tepid into a finished product that is at least a respectable effort.
The story’s real strength comes in the philosophical relationship that develops in the latter half of the film between Julia and TAU (Oldman) as they bond over a common enemy. Sadly, the script and other limitations only allow them to scratch the surface of what could have been a really thought-provoking central plot point.
It was clear that D’Alessandro and his team had a clear beginning and end but regrettably lost their way attempting to fill the narrative with some real meat. However, for sci-fi genre fans, there is still some favourable value to be found in TAU’s extensive memory.