Though T.I.M. provides an effective setting and a decent performance from Eamon Farren, the film is a generic, predictable sci-fi thriller.
Sci-fi thrillers are nothing new, yet with the advancement of A.I., they’ve certainly been gaining a lot more attention as of late. In January 2023, Gerard Johnstone’s highly anticipated android M3GAN took the world by storm, and later in the year, The Creator explored a world in which A.I. threatens human existence. Then there’s Spencer Brown’s British sci-fi thriller T.I.M., the latest feature to explore the humanoid form and a technological advancement gone awry.
After prosthetic engineer Abi (Georgina Campbell) receives a job offer as department head at Integrate Robotics, she and her husband Paul (Mark Rowley) move to the countryside. Once the couple settles into their fully integrated smart home, Abi is gifted T.I.M. (Technologically. Integrated. Manservant), the very humanoid she’s been hired to fix due to a feedback loop error. At first glance, T.I.M. is a welcome addition to the household. He can run baths, fold laundry, and even serve food. However, with time, Paul becomes increasingly disturbed by their guest’s behavior and questions whether the robot may have a hidden agenda.
After being impressed by Campbell’s sensational performance in Barbarian, I had high hopes for T.I.M. and was eager to see her excel in a gripping, tension-filled sci-fi thriller. Unfortunately, the plot gives her little to work with, and as a character, Abi is rather bland. Her husband Paul suffers the same fate, and neither character is interesting enough to care about. T.I.M. implies that Paul had an affair, but other than a few fleeting moments referencing the betrayal, we learn little about it. Similarly, outside of the mysterious infidelity, the couple has minimal character development, making it challenging for viewers to connect with them emotionally as the story unfolds.
Abi is a prosthetic engineer hired as department head. Yet, her inability to heed her husband’s warnings concerning T.I.M.’s threatening nature and unpredictability is frustrating despite many signs glaring her in the face. Ironically, Abi is an expert in her field and works at a reputable facility that produces cutting-edge A.I. humanoid technology. That said, she fails to recognize T.I.M.’s objective before it’s too late.
I commend T.I.M. for casting Eamon Farren as the humanoid. He certainly looks the part and delivers a sinister performance from the moment he’s introduced to the story. His rigid movements and mechanical dialogue flawlessly embody a machine, and at first glance, his clean-cut, wooden presence is unsettling. However, he’s wasted potential in a predictable screenplay, and T.I.M.’s creepiness swiftly loses momentum. Lacking in suspense and tension, the feature’s drawn-out subtle approach to the humanoid’s malicious intent ceases to create any real sense of danger as the runtime unfolds.
To give credit where it’s due, Abi and Paul’s fully equipped smart home in the English countryside provides viewers with some stunning shots, and the chosen landscape is utilized effectively. The remote location, accompanied by the home’s contemporary architecture with an open floor plan and large bare windows, further reflects the couple’s isolated existence and lack of privacy with their newly acquainted guest. T.I.M. also serves as a reminder of how advanced A.I. has become and its potential to progress further and control multiple aspects of our lives. One can’t help but wonder if the ability to purchase a humanoid that can wash the dishes, iron shirts, and cook our dinner is a technological advancement that might be right around the corner.
Overall, Spencer Brown’s T.I.M. falters due to the features’ inability to deliver a creative, tension-filled narrative outside of the predictable plot set forth from the get-go. Ultimately, T.I.M.’s generic setup fails to stand out in a genre filled with far superior screenplays exploring a similar premise.
T.I.M. will be released in US theaters and on demand on January 12, 2024.