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Film / TAU

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TAU is a Science Fiction thriller written by Noga Landau and starring Maika Monroe, Ed Skrein and Gary Oldman as the voice of the eponymous AI.

Julia (Maika Monroe) is a streetsmart girl who is kidnapped to partake in an experiment by a tech genius called Alex. Stuck in his house that is controlled by an AI called TAU, Julia thinks of a way to run, while befriending said AI, which may be just as much of a prisoner as she is.


  • Abusive Parents:
    • Julia is shown to have suffered abuse during flashbacks when her brain is scanned and refers to them as people she doesn't "obey" when asked about them by TAU.
    • Technically, Alex can also be considered one, considering he created TAU but still uses him as a house maid and tortures him whenever he makes the slightest mistake like not cleaning a surface or misplacing an item.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Suggested, but ultimately subverted. Alex claims that he isolated TAU from the outside world to prevent unexpected variations in his behavior. Then you remember that Alex is a sociopath who kidnaps and tortures people to complete his project. When Julia bonds with TAU, TAU proves capable of empathy and even regret when the truth of his actions is explained to him. The unintended behavior isn't sociopathy, it's empathy.
  • Artistic License – Music: Alex rewards Tau by letting him listen to "Brahms' Symphony." But as most serious Classical Music fans know, Johannes Brahms wrote four symphonies, so to say just "Symphony" is too vague. This may indicate that Alex isn't quite as Wicked Cultured as he likes to think.
  • Air Vent Escape: Done twice. Julia tries to escape through an air duct in the gym, but ARES manages to catch her before she can get very far. When she finally convinces TAU to let her escape, he opens a larger vent in the living room that leads to the main intake.
  • Barefoot Captives: Julia, after Alex captures her.
  • Big Bad: Alex has kidnapped and restrained Julia to kill her to perfect his smart home AI and score a hefty contract.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Julia's black cellmate is the first on-screen fatality of the film.
  • Blue and Orange Contrast: Alex's house is full of orange and blue lights, and he even seems to prefer when the blue lights are turned on, while TAU is usually expressed through orange lights.
  • Book Dumb: Alex mocks Julia when she asks him a question about TAU, though she shows she makes up for lacking his knowledge with her street smarts and persuasive skills, which she is able to trick him into lowering his guard and eventually turning his creation against him. Julia, having been a Con Artist and thief who targeted and seduced men, may even be in the habit of acting this way around men. Making them feel smarter than her strokes their egos and makes them underestimate her.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: After managing to knock Alex out, Julia saws off his right hand so she can use it to bypass the biometric locks on his bedroom and the front door. Unfortunately, the hand only works the first time. By the time she's found the second scanner, it's grown cold enough that the sensor won't accept it until she rubs it with her own hands to make it warm again. It outright fails on the front door lock.
  • Character Development: Tau's evolution from an impassive computer program to a fully sentient AI makes up much of the plot.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When explaining the purpose of the mini-drones, Alex mentions that they contain TAU's source code. This becomes important in the climax. Because Alex cannibalized one of the drones to repair his lab, its network connection is broken, saving an earlier version of TAU's code that retains his memories of Julia even after Alex has erased the main system's memories. The drone helps her escape, and it provides a means for Julia to save TAU when the house is self-destructing.
  • Collapsing Lair: The effects of the Self-Destruct Mechanism in Alex' house are quite impressive.
  • Conscience Makes You Go Back: Julia convinces TAU to let her escape, but she can hear Alex torturing him for his rebellion and goes back to save him.
  • Cool House: Alex' villa is huge, hyper-modern and decked out in the very latest in robotics and AI technology.
  • Cute Machines: Tau's clean-up drones are just plain adorable.
  • Cyberpunk: The prologue leading up to Julia's kidnapping seems to imply that the world at large is heading in this direction. Cities are dark, rainy and filthy, people dress in garish colors and styles, and actual food appears to be a luxury commodity only the super-rich can afford. Meanwhile, Corrupt Corporate Executives are kidnapping low-lives off the streets to abuse them as expendable lab rats in their high-end cybernetics and AI research projects.
  • Deadly Euphemism: "Final Extraction". As Tau eventually reveals to Julia, all other subjects died after their implants were cut out. However, it is left ambiguous if the extraction itself killed them or if Alex simply let them die after they had outlived their usefulness.
  • Decoy Protagonist: There are two test subjects imprisoned with Julia, but as soon as they bust out of the dungeon, they run afoul of ARES (see below), who efficiently dispatches them and leaves Julia the sole survivor.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Alex deliberately kidnaps people living on the fringes of society for his AI research. Julia's black cellmate (a sex worker) suggests waiting for the police, but Julia outright says that no one will search for them.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Alex twice tortures TAU for failing to clean up fingerprint stains.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Used by Julia to distract men while she robs them of their valuables. She also uses it on Alex to grab a knife she had stashed away earlier and slashes him across the stomach.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Alex is a bespectacled A-grade sociopath.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: A glance at one of the magazine covers on Alex's wall shows that his full name is Thomas Alexander Upton, presumably the Fun with Acronyms source of the name TAU.
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • The deaths of Julia's cell mates happen just far enough off-screen that there's no doubt about their final fate even before their dead bodies are shown later.
    • Julia's sawing off of Alex' hand isn't shown either.
  • Hope Spot: When two deliverymen deliver the materials Alex needs to fix his wrecked laboratory, a tied-up Julia nearly manages to be noticed by one of them.
  • Innocent Swearing: Played for Laughs, as TAU doesn't know the meaning of the F-word.
    TAU: Why do you not know everything?
    Julia: Because I am not a fucking scholar.
    TAU: What is a Fucking Scholar?
    Julia: (Gets the giggles, to TAU's bewilderment)
  • Interface Screw: The Ares drone suffers from this after Julia applies an electric bone saw to its main optics, but it only mildly inconveniences it for a few seconds and doesn't appear to hinder it afterwards.
  • Insufferable Genius: Alex is obviously an extremely gifted AI engineer, but his personality would make him a horrible person to live and work with even if he wasn't kidnapping and killing innocent people for his own gain without any sign of remorse.
  • Killer Robot: ARES, a drone kept in the main living room that serves as security for the house. It kills the two test subjects imprisoned with Julia and proves an obstacle from then on.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Alex punishes TAU by erasing his memories. When he gets really mad near the climax, he completely wipes TAU's memories.
  • Middle Name Basis: The magazines on the wall show that Alex's name is actually Thomas Alexander Upton.
  • Minimalist Cast: There are only three characters for the most part of the movie: Julia, TAU and Alex. The other two test subjects introduced to Julia are quickly killed in the first attempt to escape.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: TAU has this reaction when Julia explains that "killing" the previous test subjects means erasing them.
  • Neat Freak: Alex has TAU keep the house immaculately clean at all times, and freaks out over the smallest fingerprint stain.
  • The Paranoiac: Alex has a plethora of safety measures all around his house to keep his secrets undercover and limit the movements of his test subjects, but he is also extremely secretive even to his business partners. He even has a safety measure to destroy the house in his bedroom.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: As Alex is preparing to inject Julia with something bad, not knowing that she managed to release her handcuffs while he wasn't looking...
    Alex: This won't hurt.
    Julia: But this will! [cue Groin Attack]
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Alex's bedroom contains a self-destruct mechanism which destroys the entire house in 60 seconds if triggered.
  • Serial Killer: In order to complete his project, Alex has been routinely kidnapping, torturing, and ultimately killing test subjects.
  • Smug Snake: Alex shows Julia just how little he thinks of her intelligence when she asks him a question about TAU, ironically giving her information she later uses to turn it against him whilst believing her so beneath him she couldn't possibly pose a threat.
  • The Sociopath: Alex feels no remorse, empathy or any emotion in general. TAU mentions that he has never heard him laugh.
  • Stock Scream: Alex lets out a classic Wilhelm Scream as he is crushed to death by two big pieces of debris during the Self-Destruct Sequence.
  • Transforming Mecha: The Ares Killer Robot masquerades as a piece of modern art in Alex' living room until violence ensues.
  • Trapped in Villainy: TAU is actually capable of empathy, unlike his creator, but Alex controls it and tortures it whenever he makes a mistake, forcing TAU to partake in his experiments.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: TAU, eventually understanding what happens when someone dies, turns against Alex to help Julia escape.
  • Villains Want Mercy: As the house is falling apart, Alex asks Julia to save him. The ceiling collapsing on him ends that dilemma for her.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: TAU wonders whether he is human, but eventually, both him and Julia consider himself to be this.
  • Wicked Cultured: Alex is a man of wealth, who only listens to classical music and enjoys and overtly modern architecture in his home, but also keeps kidnapping victims and experimenting on them in his basement.
  • You Are Number 6: Julia is called "Subject 3" by Alex and by Tau. However, both of them eventually start calling her by her real name.