A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tau is sci-fi story with some horror elements. Violence includes a man getting impaled. No gore is shown when it happens, but later the man's body is dragged along the ground, leaving a huge trail of blood. Off camera, a hand is sawed off and spatters and smears of blood stay on the perpetrator's face, chest, and arms for a long time afterward; she also carries the severed hand around. Disturbing images include victims who are gagged with masks that cover half their faces and a robot that chases, grabs, and hits people. Implants in their brains connect to a computer, causing them to writhe and moan in agony. There are a few fight scenes; one with a knife shows some blood. The overall mood is very dark and menacing. Strong language is rare but strong; "s--t" and "f--k" are used a few times each. One scene shows kissing and making out in a nightclub, and Julia tries to seduce Alex as a distraction; they lean into each other but never have sexual contact. Standard messages about artificial intelligence and what it means to be human are weakly explored or don't reach any conclusion. Julia is a strong role model for self-preservation, creative thinking, and never giving up.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
TAU is the very latest in artificial intelligence created by the mad genius Alex (Ed Skrein). Julia (Maika Monroe) is one of society's outcasts, making a hard-scrabble living as a pickpocket. Alex kidnaps Julia and others to extract algorithms from their brain patterns, which can then be used to improve Tau's (voiced by Gary Oldman) functioning and intelligence. Julia's daring escape attempt fails, but she and Alex reach a truce of sorts where at least she no longer has to be kept tied up. As she interacts with Tau, she starts to bond with it and is able to use its curiosity about the world and its love of music to her advantage. Can Julia escape Alex's clutches, and if she can, what will become of Tau?
Is it any good?
Despite strong visuals and a well-maintained sense of tension and dread throughout the story, this science fiction thriller ultimately falls flat. Maybe it's because Tau tries to be a blend of too much at a time. The horror, kidnap escape, and sci-fi aspects come and go at random. But the biggest problem is that it's exploring an already well-worn path of speculative science fiction, asking standard questions about robots and AI that have been around since before HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And it doesn't pose the questions in an interesting, new way or offer any kind of fresh perspective on possible answers.
It's visually interesting, as you'd expect from a director with storyboarding credits as impressive as D'Alessandro's. Lots of scenes have a comic book, graphic novel style about them. And Gary Oldman adds an oddly sweet sort of sadness to Tau's voice, especially when he's talking to Julia. The occasionally gory violence, horror elements, tension, and terrorizing robots mean it's best for older teens and up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Tau. How much is too much? Is it different in movies or TV than in books? Why or why not?
What are Julia's character strengths? Is she a good role model? Why or why not?
If you could have AI installed in your house, would you? Why or why not? How does the depiction of Tau compare to how AI is shown in other movies you've seen, or books you've read?
- On DVD or streaming: June 29, 2018
- Cast: Maika Monroe, Ed Skrein, Gary Oldman
- Director: Federico D'Alessandro
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, Robots, Science and Nature
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: Some violence and language.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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