The phrase “We can upload his consciousness” is commonplace in modern cyber-thrillers in which the bodies of brilliant men (and it is usually men) die while their massive brains remain active. Transcendence, the flashy but hollow flop directorial debut of talented cinematographer Wally Pfister (the Dark Knight trilogy), joins Self/Less and Criminal, to name but two recent examples, in keeping someone “alive” on a USB stick (or thereabouts). Johnny Depp’s unconvincing artificial intelligence boffin is shot by anti-tech terrorists and his “source code” transferred to a mainframe in a desert bunker that handily allows Depp’s puffy face to carry on talking on a screen. Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman and Paul Bettany ennoble any supporting cast, but it’s Rebecca Hall who shines as Depp’s loyal widow, embroiled in an ethical showdown with the military, the FBI, other outside forces and a ponderous script.
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