I might be in the minority of critics here, but I really, thoroughly enjoyed this film. It opens on a world devoid of power: cellphones litter the ground, people wander the streets aimlessly (too cliché?), and a laptop keyboard gets used as a doorstop. Message received, the word has no electricity. We rewind 5 years, where we meet Dr. Will Caster, an artificial intelligence researcher, his wife Evelyn (Hall), his best friend Max (Bettany), and their friend Joe Tagger (Freeman). During a presentation given by Evelyn, Max, and Will, we see the beginnings of a coordinated attack on multiple AI labs and research facilities. Extremists who oppose technological advancement have infiltrated every single place, with this exact plan.
After the presentation, Will is shot while all the other attacks happen simultaneously. (Sidenote: Poisoned cake? Yum!) After a quick recovery from being grazed, all seems well. Of course, we have an entire movie, so, whabam, the bullet was laced, and Will has radiation poisoning. It’s entered his bloodstream, so there’s no cure, and he’s only got 4-5 weeks, tops. When his wife can’t stand the idea of letting him go, she turns to his research, and the research of Max, to copy his consciousnesses and “upload” him into a computer. It works, and the extremist group becomes the catalyst for the thing they feared most. They try to stop Evelyn from uploading him to the internet, but she squeaks by and escapes, while Compu-Will expands and gets more power and information. He leads Evelyn, the literal voice in her ear, thanks to his new, all-networked awesomeness, to a rundown little town. He’s got big plans for them, the town, and the world.
We fast-forward a couple years, and see that Will has done amazing things in that time. Thanks to a massive solar farm and underground data center, Will has perfected nano-technology, and is set on healing the world. Will never wanted that, he only wanted to understand the world. Evelyn was the one that wanted to fix everything. But when Tagger, Max, the FBI, AND the extremist group all target Will, things take a turn for the worse.
Where a lot of folks see this as a “warning,” and where the FBI and extremists saw Will as an unstoppable monster, honestly, I saw an intelligent entity making entirely logical decisions, and having very rational reactions to attacks against him. I found the end of Will’s story heartbreakingly tragic. The entire way home, my husband and I discussed the potential ramifications of that kind of technology in our society, and our drive was like an hour-long!
The performances were all rock-solid, as was the scripting, cinematography, and most importantly, the CGI. I found it to be very believable, never really overdone, where it very easily could have been. I’ve honestly got nothing bad to say about this movie. The only reason it didn’t score perfectly, for me, is because of the irrational way these brilliant scientists were reacting to everything. That’s the only part I didn’t find believable, but even then, I didn’t think it was bad. I think it’s more of a generalization of the average perception of that type of technology.
I can’t really say much more without giving the entire thing away. So, if you like movies that make you think about things, long after you’ve left the theater, or you like well-done sci-fi movies, or you just really like Johnny Depp, then I believe that you’ll really enjoy this movie.
Rating: [usr 4.5]
Synopsis: As Dr. Will Caster works toward his goal of creating an omniscient, sentient machine, a radical anti-technology organization fights to prevent him from establishing a world where computers can transcend the abilities of the human brain.
Directors: Wally Pfister
Writers: Jack Paglen
Stars: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser, and Kate Mara.
Runtime: 119 min