"Transcendence" is a science fiction film that tells the tale of Dr. Will Caster. Caster is a researcher in the field of artificial intelligence. He initially strives to create a machine that is both sentient and that possesses a collective intelligence. He ends up the target of extremists who oppose technological advancements of this nature.
Rather than deter him, the extremists motivate Caster to achieve his goal. Terminally ill, Caster begins to contemplate how his technology might make him immortal. Indeed, he reaches the juncture at which he wants to become a part of his technology. Through this process, Caster's drive becomes not so much to achieve his technological goals, but to achieve unbridled power. He eventually appears to be unstoppable in this quest for power.
Johnny Depp leads the cast of "Transcendence" in the role of Dr. Will Caster. Depp does a solid job in developing a character arc that takes Caster from being a noble researcher into a person nothing less than sinister. Depp reaffirms his position in the entertainment industry as an actor capable of nuanced and compelling performances through his spot-on portrayal of Caster.
Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman is cast as Joseph in the film. As is the case with Depp, Freeman turns in an admirable performance in "Transcendence" that lives up to his reputation in the industry. As Joseph, Freeman creates a character that is believable and that evolves on the screen, albeit not as dramatically as does the character of Dr. Will Caster.
British actor Rebecca Hall is cast in the lead female role as Caster's wife. Hall is perhaps best known for her roles in "Frost/Nixon" and "Iron Man 3." As Evelyn Caster, Hall moves from being a supportive wife, to a concerned spouse and finally to a person who truly is horrified with her husband's determination to become all-powerful through his integration with his technology. She manages to convey angst and charm as she responds to her husband's negatively evolving persona.
Irish actor Cillian Murphy plays Anderson in "Transcendence." Although not one of the leading roles in the film, Murphy catches the attention of moviegoers with his portrayal of a person directly impacted by Caster's odyssey from respectable researcher to power-mad ruffian.
Paul Bettany plays the character of Max Waters. Waters is, and on some level remains, Will Caster's best friend. The British actor is earnest in his portrayal of a character who initially supports the work of Dr. Caster and ultimately becomes horrified by the turn of events. He plots a course to stop the efforts of the doctor, despite his true concern and caring for Will Caster.
Bettany and Rebecca Hall work well together as they plot and work to stop the efforts of Depp's character. They are able to draw close without falling into the common cinematic cliché of becoming romantically involved. The audience roots for this duo not so much because of the diabolical plan of Will Caster, but because moviegoers know how much these two care for the good doctor turned bad. Moviegoers want the pair to prevail in stopping Caster because of the chemistry between them and because they both manage to convey the real sense that they truly care for Caster and wish to somehow recapture the man he once was.
Many lesser-known actors turn in solid performances in "Transcendence" as well. These include Clifton Collins Jr., as Martin, and Kate Mara, as Bree. One of the reasons these actors do so well in the film arises from the fact that the script is well written. The actors as a collective unit, including the more minor players, do an outstanding job of honoring the words constructed by the film's screenwriter.
The actors also shine as a unit because of the solid efforts of first time director Will Pfister. As a cast, the individual actors seem to share his vision for the film. This clearly includes crafting a visually stunning and suspenseful science fiction movie. However, the flesh and blood of the characters is not sacrificed in that process.
The cast of "Transcendence" works well as an ensemble. Even the big-name stars that populate the flick work well together as a team and do not overshadow one another. Although they do individually shine, it is as a team — as an ensemble — that the cast of "Transcendence" truly makes its mark.