Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him.
However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed—to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can…but if they should.
Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.
This is an intelligently written story that taps into human emotion. Johnny Depp gives a remarkable performance as Dr. Will Caster and Rebecca Hall gives an equally strong performance as his wife Evelyn. Anyone who has ever lost someone close to them will understand the emotions she feels after her husband dies from radiation poisoning contained in a bullet that hit him. Evelyn states, “We can save him.” When Will is “uploaded” on the Physically Independent Neural Network (PINN) his voice and images stir her remembrances of him and after her initial sadness in losing him, she finds a strange kind of comfort as she comes in, sees his talking image, and snuggles up on the couch and goes to sleep.
However, all is not well. The technological Will begins to side with a group of rebels who want to take over and force healing and their entire system on people whether they want it or not. Rebecca’s friend Max (Paul Bettany) states boldly he doesn’t believe the system is Will in any way and he devises a plan to send a virus through it, as he is the author of the original program. In a humorous earlier scene Will, before he died, told Max, “You’re the third smartest person I know”. Soon Will is confronted with allowing the virus to be submitted through his system with Evelyn as the conductor, or to stop her. The question soon must be answered: Is the real Will inside the technological Will at all? Does any emotion remain?
This is a fascinating story with themes of love and loyalty and moral choices but unfortunately strong language, in addition to a few bloody scenes, prevents us from awarding our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal to “Transcendence”.