Transcendence Movie Review
Far too slow-paced to work as a thriller and too shallow to properly challenge us as science fiction, this film is unlikely to please many audience members. That isn't to say that it's unwatchable: it looks terrific, and features a strong cast who are solid in thinly written roles. But the material promises far more than the film delivers.
At the centre is Will (Johnny Depp), an artificial intelligence expert who is attacked by an anti-technology terrorist group. With only weeks to live, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and his colleague Max (Paul Bettany) upload his consciousness into his computer system, so after he dies he is able to transcend his humanity to solve far-advanced problems. He directs Evelyn to create a vast secret hideout to further develop the work, which progresses for two years until the terrorists, led by Bree (Kate Mara), find them. And now Will's old colleague Joseph (Morgan Freeman) and an FBI agent (Cillian Murphy) have to choose which side they're on.
This is precisely where the script fails: the sides are far too clear from the start. What should be a story packed with moral ambiguity is instead shaped into a straightforward good versus evil drama that betrays screenwriter Jack Paglen's mistrust of technology. And since everything is slanted so sharply, there's nowhere for the story or characters to go. First-time director Wally Pfister (the Oscar-winning Dark Knight cinematographer) makes sure everything look terrific, but everything moves so hesitantly that we feel like we're watching the movie in slow motion. It's as if the film is always on the verge of saying something important, but can never quite get the words out.
The actors do what they can with their uncomplicated characters. Hall finds Evelyn's emotional centre, while Bettany tries his best in the most intriguing role, even if the character refuses to go anywhere interesting. Depp has little to do but gaze sagely from dull head-and-shoulders computer monitors, although he does invest plenty of his trademark tics into Will's physicality. All of the actors seem to be bursting with the potential to play much more complex people grappling with issues that are on the verge of becoming seriously important. But while it's still intriguing, this script is far too quick to fall into an easy formula, hoping we won't notice that it never says anything at all about the big ideas it raises.
Cast & Crew
Director : Wally Pfister
Screenwriter : Jack Paglen