As each year draws to a close every December there is one event in the film industry calendar I like to keep an eye out for amongst the awards nominations. The annual unveiling of The Black List has occurred every year since 2004 and highlights the most liked yet to be produced screenplays. The reason it interests me is that some of the best films of recent times have been made from these scripts. However, for all the great films that have been made from the featured screenplays, there are also some poor films that have been produced as well. Though Tau had a premise that initially intrigued me when it featured in 2014 the resulting film ultimately comes as a disappointment.
Tau revolves around Julia (Maika Monroe) who is held captive by a scientist, Alex (Ed Skrein) in a futuristic smart house that is controlled by an artificially intelligent computer named Tau, voiced by recent Oscar winner Gary Oldman.
Many directors have stated the importance of having a great screenplay in order to make a film of merit. Unfortunately, Tau lacks this. Its dialogue is monotonous and at times confusing. One of the earliest lines in the film is evidence of this when Julia says, “We’re not the kind of people the police go looking for and he knows that.” It stands out because Julia and the audience know nothing about the character the line is said to.
For a film that has three main roles, Tau lacks heavily in characterisation. The film never takes any time to develop its cast, and though the actors’ performances cannot be blamed on the script both Monroe and Skrein’s portrayals are artificial and cursory. Even Oldman’s vocal efforts are melodramatic. Tau also never takes time to build any tension given the constant hurried pace of the film, and because of these elements, the audience is never given the chance to empathise with anyone or anything.
Artificial intelligence has been explored in fascinating ways through film, though, unfortunately, Tau doesn’t explore the concept in any detail or add anything new to the discussion. Futuristic gadgets, CGI and neon lighting seem to be an attempt to make up for gaping holes within this film but these effects instead demonstrate how little thought was given to the project as a whole.
The tests and puzzles Julia is instructed to complete by Alex under Tau’s supervision are one of many tedious moments. They provide no advancement to Julia’s character arc and it becomes tiresome to see. Even when Julia begins to befriend the household A.I and attempt to educate Tau this becomes equally painstaking, and how Julia learns to do this is also baffling because Alex, as smart as he may appear, stupidly divulges why he has to keep Tau distanced from the outside world.
Rather than providing audiences with themes and a story to contemplate, Tau is a film that has the audience questioning the plot and character’s actions and motives. The film comes across as little more than cheap entertainment and is it yet another sci-fi misstep from Netflix.