FilmReview

Review: Powerful Performances and Visuals Help A Complex Plot In "Transcendence"

Shannon O’Connor ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor-In-Chief

Johnny Depp in Transcendence. Photo Credit: Peter Mountain/Warner Bros. Pictures.
Johnny Depp in Transcendence. Photo Credit: Peter Mountain/Warner Bros. Pictures.

Technology has a new face in Transcendence.

The sci-fi flick from Academy Award winning cinematographer-turned director Wally Pfister (Inception, The Dark Knight) explores the dark side of technology in a not-so-distant future.

The film centers on Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), a brilliant researcher of artificial intelligence, and his equally brilliant wife and colleague Evelyn Caster (Rebecca Hall). With a happy marriage and a successful career, life for the Caster’s is all they ever dreamed.

However, this perfect image is shattered when a rebel organization fighting against artificial intelligence takes action by blowing up research facilities, poisoning researchers and shooting Will with a radioactive bullet.

Paul Bettany and Rebecca Hall in Transcendence. Photo Credit: Peter Mountain/Warner Bros. Pictures.
Paul Bettany and Rebecca Hall in Transcendence. Photo Credit: Peter Mountain/Warner Bros. Pictures.

With weeks left to live, Evelyn along with her best friend and colleague Max Waters (Paul Bettany) decide to upload Will’s consciousness onto the computer, allowing his brain to live on in the internet while his body withers and dies. Once his consciousness is uploaded, Will becomes omnipotent and extremely dangerous.

As a science-fiction film, Transcendence succeeds in fully engaging the audience into a world unlike the one they know now. However, due to perplexing technological language and multiple plot holes, the film appeals mainly to those who understand nanotechnology upon entrance into the theater.

While the plot and science are difficult to grasp, the spectacular performances reigned in a lot of the outlandish plot points.

Johnny Depp perfectly walks the line of sympathetic and psychopathic as his character transitions from brilliant scientist to an all-powerful technological force. Rebecca Hall also gives a powerful performance of a woman so desperate to save her husband she is blind to the consequences of her actions.

Kate Mara in Transcendence. Photo Credit: Peter Mountain/Warner Bros. Pictures.
Kate Mara in Transcendence. Photo Credit: Peter Mountain/Warner Bros. Pictures.

Another highlight of the film is Kate Mara’s portrayal of the leader of the rebel organization responsible for Will’s death. Mara, fresh off her breakout role in Netflix’s House of Cards, brings intensity and reason into the film. The speech she gives to Max regarding the reasons she formed the organization is one of the most powerful scenes in the film.

Apart from fantastic performances, Transcendence is a visual marvel. Often, science-fiction films feel fake or forced; however the atmosphere of Transcendence is not only stunning it is realistic. Pfister’s career as a cinematographer definitely had its influence on the film as every frame is shot precisely and gorgeously.

Although the complex plot ultimately makes the film hard to relate to and difficult to understand, it is the powerhouse performances and stunning visuals that make the film enjoyable.

Overall Grade: B-

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