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Not such an ok computer.

TRANSCENDENCE (12A) SINCE returning to dry land, what has Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp done to deserve his latest critical mauling? First it was Tim Burton's Dark Shadows in 2012, then it was The Lone Ranger last summer, despite the best old fashioned stunts we've seen for years.

And now the US critics are at it again, effectively denouncing this sci-fi flick as boring mumbo-jumbo.

But it's all about perspective - because if the faltering M Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) had directed this we'd be thinking it was heralding a return to some kind of form.

The good news is that Transcendence is perfectly watchable, has some interesting themes about medical progress and brilliant cinematography too.

Because it has been debut directed by Christopher Nolan's regular cinematographer, Wally Pfister (Batman trilogy / Inception), it has been shot on film, giving the pictures a luxurious texture so often lacking in modern digital movies.

Transcendence is the story of a man, Dr Will Caster (Depp), who has been masterminding the move to develop a kind of artificial intelligence that will be far more capable than the human brain. In this respect, it lives up to the meaning of its title regarding an "existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level".

Terrorists called R.I.F.T. (Revolutionary Independence From Technology) oppose this advancement and shoot Will with a polonium-tainted bullet. Doctors give him a month to live but his brain capacity is uploaded to machine status thanks to fellow researchers, wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany).

What is the nature of consciousness and how will it manifest itself? And, if Dr Caster is accelerated into a position of God-like power and he fails to use his responsibility wisely, what can Evelyn and Max do then? The problem with Transcendence is that it tries to be too clever en route to what is a disappointingly murky resolution, when many will simply want a holiday thriller you can watch with your own brain switched off.

The quality supporting cast, including Morgan Freeman as Joseph Tagger and Peaky Blinders' star Cillian Murphy (FBI Agent Buchanan), are unable to transcend the clunky nature of debut writer Jack Paglen's script. Moreover Pfister is caught in two minds, neither willing to chase after the crowns of action kings like Christopher Nolan and James Cameron, nor able to slow this down to the heartbeat level of a mesmerising braininjury movie like The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (2008).


Johnny Depp as Will Caster, right, and above, with Cillian Murphy as Donald Buchanan, Rebecca Hall as Evelyn Caster and Morgan Freeman as Joseph Tagger
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Apr 25, 2014
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