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TRANSCENDENCE (director: Wally Pfister; screenwriter: Jack Paglen; cinematographer: Jess Hall; editor: David Rosenbloom; music: Mychael Danna; cast: Johnny Depp (Will Caster), Rebecca Hall (Evelyn Caster), Paul Bettany (Max Waters), Cillian Murphy (Agent Buchanan), Kate Mara (Bree), Clifton Collins, Jr. (Martin), Morgan Freeman (Joseph Tagger), Cillian Murphy (Agent Buchanan); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Andrew A. Kosove/Broderick Johnson/Kate Cohen/Marisa Polvino/Annie Marter/David Valdes/Aaron Ryder; Warner Bros. release of an Alcon Entertainment; 2014)
“Never transcends into anything much.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Cinematographer Wally Pfister makes his feature directing debut in this thought-provoking sci-fi thriller, but his unmoving direction and lackluster visuals keeps things tedious and it never transcends into anything much. It’s written by Jack Paglen, who provides us with both pseudo science and some cutting edge research as he retrieves haunting old chestnuts from this genre and tries to bring the moribund film back to life. Unfortunately there are only a few entertaining moments and too much mumbo-jumbo explanations for every move made in this slow-moving and confusing film.

The sci-fi thriller about evolving through Artificial Intelligence raises fears if a scientific innovator can upload onto the Internet into a sentient machine the world’s consciousness and all the emotions a human is capable of and wonders what would be the consequences for mankind if this machine became the world leader. The worry is that technology will cross the borders of ethical research and assume a God-like role through a supercomputer and mankind wouldn’t be able to control it. Problem is it never excited me, made me feel tense or made me believe I was in an imaginative futuristic world that was threatened by computers

The Berkeley, genius, eccentric AI research scientist teacher of acclaim, Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), gets fatally shot by a terrorist anti-technology gang called RIFT, led by his former intern Bree (Kate Mara), just before he can complete his radical PINN computer research that will never allow the mind to die even if the body does. Will’s loyal fund raiser scientist wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) soon finds herself communicating with her returned from the dead disembodied hubby, turned into a hologram, and finds herself in danger from RIFT, the FBI and her humanitarian hubby who turned into a monster through his own creation.

Other notable players are the couple’s brilliant researcher best friend Max (Paul Bettany); the government-supported scientist and former colleague Joseph (Morgan Freeman), who smells something is not kosher and partners with law enforcement; and the harried chief FBI investigator, Agent Buchanan (Cillian Murphy), who wants to bring about law and order and is willing to partner with a terrorist group to shut down the innovative researcher.

The most puzzling question for me was why something as outlandish was presented in such a dull way.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”