The Blog Collab is back and ready to rock with a Free For All January. Thanks for bearing with us while we took our Christmas break. Both Jill and I were having trouble getting into the festive spirit and agreed we didn’t want to do Christmas movies this time around so we had a rest instead.
The premise here is quite neat. ‘Streetwise’ (read: slutty, unlikely to be missed) people are kidnapped by an amoral scientist and harvested for their brains for a ground-breaking, game-changing AI project. When Alex (Ed Skrein) kidnaps Julia (It Follows’ Maika Monroe), he bites off more than he can chew. This girl values her life and she’ll fight hammer and nail to get it back. Fuck you, Alex, you Nicholas Hoult-looking loser.
With the help of the Artificial Intelligence system that runs his space age home – TAU (voiced by Gary Oldman) – and multiple drones/a massive clunky robot, Alex is able to strike fear into Julia. To a point. As our plucky girl realises her value to Alex she begins to negotiate a deal with him – give her back some of her home comforts and eventual freedom, in exchange for her co-operation. For a while it seems a kind of pseudo-harmony could be possible but Alex is under pressure from his investors and is also a cold fish who doesn’t suffer fools, so the pair soon fall out.
Meanwhile, Julia seems to have found another way. She’s found a chink in TAU’s armor and the more time the AI and the girl spend together, the more she works her way beneath it. TAU, you see, appears to be the victim of an abusive domestic situation and Julia can use that. By convincing TAU he’s human like her, and honing in on his love of music/growing curiosity about the world outside, the more she can get him onside. It’s a game of wits and it’s quite sweet. But will Alex notice this and put paid to Julia’s games before she escapes? Or will he use her and then erase her as he has so many before her?
Well, despite the quite charming narrative, this film is not great honestly. It has such potential and I really enjoyed Julia as a character but it doesn’t have quite the oomph I expected. Maika Monroe is one to watch after It Follows and the gloriously trashy The Guest and she’s definitely the stand out here, I just wish she’d had worthy material to work with.
I’m also glad they made the central relationship about Julia and TAU and not Julia and Alex, who frankly was a wasted character. I get that he’s supposed to be a man with his eyes on the prize but we never get anything from him. He’s so 2D it’s offensive and maybe that’s the point, that the creator of such advanced AI would end up being less human than his pet project.
While we’re here though, should such sophisticated Artificial Intelligence be that easy to manipulate? As far as I can see, Alex has one job and if he can’t even keep his home in order…
All in all, not a disaster but not amazing either. Poor old Netflix seems to be in a rut churning out mediocre Sci-fi originals at the moment and I hope that changes soon. I should have chosen Mary Shelley instead (and will in the coming weeks).
⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐