Tau (2018) – Review

Tau is now streaming on Netflix.

By Greg Wheeler

Netflix’s horrid streak of original movies continues with Tau, a film that borrows highbrow themes tackling artificial intelligence, and reshapes them into a forgettable thriller.

Some of Tau’s problems can be blamed on the script, which moves along at breakneck speed, destroying any sort of attachment to the kidnapped protagonist Julia (Maika Monroe). There are a few passable scenes though, and the evolution of Tau from obedient intelligence to morally confused rage is well paced for the most part. Still, the whole story feels lackadaisical and sloppily produced. The director failed to capture what makes other sci-fi flicks memorable.

No sooner has the title sequence finished when Julia is kidnapped in the middle of the night and held captive in a mysterious house under the watchful eye of an AI called Tau (Gary Oldman). As the movie progresses, Julia becomes ever more desperate to leave. She launches a cleverly sprung trap to turn Tau against its creator Alex (Ed Skrein) in a risky bid to escape. This all sounds very thrilling! Unfortunately, most of the runtime is spent dragging each scene along, slowly shifting from one heavy dialogue encounter to the next, half-heartedly exploring the usual tropes like humanity and consciousness you’d expect from a film like this.

The biggest problem with Tau is its lack of originality. There just isn’t anything inherently new or fresh here. ‘Ex Machina’ nails the trust and empathy elements to allow us to engage with Ava, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ manages to keep a consistently creepy tone, and plenty of other films and TV shows in this genre manage to put a unique enough spin on AI.

All of this is made worse by the pedestrian style of filming too. The lighting is inconsistent, jumping from reds and blues over to orange and greys with little in the way of care or attention to detail. The camera work is passable, but again, there’s not really anything outstanding here that hasn’t been done better elsewhere. Tau’s consciousness and interesting triangular design is about the only visually impressive element of the film, but bears a lot of similarities to HAL from ‘2001.’

As a cliche, brainless thriller Tau ticks all the boxes but fails to innovate beyond the confines of the genre itself. A lack of characterization for Julie and an unoriginal story fail to garner enough empathy to make the final act worth the wait, making this another disappointing entry in Netflix’s sci-fi catalog.

I give Tau a D-.

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