Kidnapped by a mad scientist and trapped in his futuristic home, distressed damsel Julia needs all the help she can get. At the mercy of Alex's ill-defined but painful experiments and his brutal home help system, the abductee’s prospects don't look good. Better hope she can talk Evil Alexa around, then. A cross between HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Robocop's ED 209, the titular TAU is both Julia's prison guard and her only friend. If she can appeal to the machine's sense of curiosity and sympathy, she might just survive. That's if her kidnapper, TAU's abusive master, doesn't get to them both first.
It has its (literal) technological trappings, but TAU is more conventional kidnap thriller than cutting-edge sci-fi flick. The story is reminiscent of The Collector and Captivity, and only the presence of Gary Oldman's robo-butler truly sets it apart from the rest. It's not long before Sad Siri falls into an age-old subgenre sub-routine; that of the abused accomplice whose heart isn't really in it.
TAU's not alone in that respect – nobody is at their most engaged here, and certainly not Oscar winner Gary Oldman, who's given so little to do dramatically that TAU could have been played by anyone. He still manages to be less robotic than actual human Ed Skrein, whose villain barely rises above one-note the whole time. It might help if we were told what his all-important experiments are actually in aid of, but writer Noga Landau fudges the matter, managing to be both overly expository and obtuse at the same time. We never get a good idea what Alex is really up to, but there is a scene in which he explains to Julia just how she can break his pet computer.
The third player fares the best of them, although this is due to the sheer presence and charisma of Maika Monroe rather than the material she's dealt. She gives a game performance, tied up and muzzled in various states of just-about undress. Skrien is a dullard and Oldman barely counts as being in it, so poor Monroe is left to carry the film by herself, through tedium and silliness alike.
There are glimpses of a far better film throughout, in the moments where Julia and TAU's growing friendship does work, and Gary Oldman sounds awake. The visuals, while relatively cheap, do the job, and Alex's house is a fun setting, with good variation in cells and torture rooms. We've seen the rest of it before though, and by the time it descends into silly melodrama, there's little less to salvage. It's like a mediocre episode of Black Mirror, running on for too long and out of ideas.
TAU / Director: Frederico D’Alessandro / Screenplay: Noga Landau / Starring: Maika Monroe, Ed Skrein, Gary Oldman / Release Date: Out Now (Netflix Exclusive)