Release year: 2014
Director: Wally Pfister
Screenwriter: Jack Paglen
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, Kate Mara, Cole Hauser, Clifton Collins Jr.
Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) strives to create the perfect artificial intelligence with intention to use it to save the planet. But when anti-technologist extremists make him their main target, time is running out for Caster. Evelyn and their best friend Max (Paul Bettany) attempt to save their hard work and Evelyn her husband, ignoring the warnings of Max, that the extremists may have a point.
That Transcendence is the directorial debut of a cinematographer is evident in the beautifully shot scenes and impressive sets. The movie is quite a mess story wise and one don’t have to look too long, to find plot holes and poor logic, but it does leave you thinking about the thought-provoking themes it brings up. The question throughout is whether the Caster’s are creating the utopia they desire or a world were humans are controlled by technology and the intelligent script leaves the answer pretty much up to the point of the viewer. Because how far is it morally okay to go to do good? Depp (Sleepy Hollow, 1999) is more subdued here, than we usually see him, but is very good in this quiet role, where the fact that he shows less emotions than we usually see from the actor, adds to the paranoia people experience when it comes to artificial intelligence. Opposite him Hall (The Awakening, 2011) is impressive in a rare, thinking-heroine role and Bettany (A Beautiful Mind, 2001) a delight as the one person, who really seems to speak the doubt we all think, there bye representing the audience. The will-technology-destroy-the-world question, is one seen again and again in especially the sci-fi genre, but Transcendence adds new dimensions to the question and is, besides a visually stunning piece of work, an intelligent movie that leaves you thinking and talking about the subject as well as heart-breaking human drama.
Wally Pfister has worked as cinematographer on most of Christopher Nolan’s movies. Nolan eyed the project for some time while finishing up The Dark Knight Rises (2012) before taking on Interstellar (2014), believing Transcendence was “perfect” for Wally Pfister’s debut as a director.
Picture Copyright: Nordisk Film