This short sci-fi anthology has a peculiar title considering how there is no A.I. involved at all. Or at least, it’s not obvious enough to merit a mention in the title. What the four short films do have in common though is a character having to defy odds, expectations or even their own will in the name of ‘something greater’. A reliable set up for any beyond-this-world story then, even if like most short movies these four are quite minimalist about it.
Seed sees Nathan (Nelson Lee) celebrate his 40th birthday in an alternate future where that means you are killed as per a population control measure. It is fascinating to watch, like a mini-episode of Black Mirror, managing to pull off a similar sense of unease and nervousness. The scene where Nathan talks alone with his one-time love Kat, however, drags badly for such a short film. There is no chemistry between the two, the only major blotch on what is otherwise a decent stab at a thought-provoking short.
This is followed by In/Finate, on balance the strongest film of the four even though it's fairly thin on plot. Writers Kristen Hilkert and Ashlee Mundy (who also stars at the lead, Jane) keep everything very believable as if this could be your neighbours you are watching. The speech feels very natural and flowing, and you learn a lot about Jane in a short time span without it feeling rushed. When it threatens to fizzle out on a low note, you learn the job that is forcing Jane to make such a hard choice. After a moment of reflection, it is really a penny dropping moment.
Phoenix 9 tries to be a fifteen-minute Mad Max and does not pull it off. It features a stand-out performance from Paul Lange as a pre-apocalypse millionaire who has fallen from grace but feels like it’s trying to pull off just a little too much at once. It’s entertaining, but it doesn’t force the same kind of afterthoughts that the other three manage. It is best seen in context, therefore; a little mental break from the minor mind-bending of the films immediately before and after.
The final film is Redux, a ‘fight the corporate power’ mini-thriller that takes a short while to wrap your head around. If Michael Bay fantasises about a Die Hard 6, expect it to look like Redux; armed guards, a suited baddie (the ever-suave Eric Roberts) and time travel - possibly. Not polished, but again a good short blast and the right film to end the anthology with, wrapping things up more nicely than the other films manage.
A.I. TALES / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: NELSON LEE, KRISTEN HILKERT, AMIR REICHART, VITALY VERLOV / SCREENPLAY: NELSON LEE, ASHLEE MUNDY, KRISTEN HILKERT, PEER GOPFRICH, VITALY VERLOV / STARRING: NELSON LEE, ASHLEE MUNDY, DANIELA FLYNN, PAUL LANGE, RUSSELL FENTON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (US), TBC (UK)