TWO STARS – Superficial, Violent
The villain of VIRTUOSITY is not the murderous android who terrorizes a city, but the programmer who created him.
Under the shroud of a research company creating a virtual reality that can train law enforcement personnel, the programmer instead develops a video alter-ego to facilitate his fiendish desires.
His creation is a program in which he melds the psyches of 200 mass murders.
The ultimate villain, Sid 6.7 (Russell Crowe) has the cunning and hatred of the worst of humanity. He is the personification of the programmer’s suppressed evil.
Through some intriguing science fiction and the development of a self-rejuvenating silicon-based android, Sid 6.7 enters the real world.
When he does, the programmer, Daryl Lindenmeyer (Stephen Spinella) hides in seclusion to vicariously enjoy the destruction his creation achieves.
The theme of VIRTUOSITY raises many interesting questions of those who create technology capable of mass destruction.
Does the person giving their creative abilities to the development of weapons in any way relish their use?
Is there an evil spiritual desire which can only be satisfied by taking the creative power and turning it toward evil?
Christian theologians have long agreed that one of the primary components of our being created in the “image of God” is our ability to create.
Like our Creator, we can bring together new forms of art and technology in creative and powerful ways.
Many theologians state that this creative ability is an expression of our worship, as we imitate our creator.
If, as Lindenmeyer chooses, we use our creative power to unleash our evil, then what does that do to us spiritually?
VIRTUOSITY seems to be playing not only with the scientific questions of virtual reality, but with the spiritual questions of virtue itself.
What makes a person good? What makes a person evil? Is it a moment of passion, caused by intense pain, or is it an apathetic indifference to the life and death of others?
The hero of the film is a passionate police officer Parker Barnes (Denzel Washington). In a moment of intense pain upon the death of his wife and daughter at the hands of a dispassionate murderer, he retaliated impulsively. In his reactions he killed innocent bystanders.
Is he then evil? Does his moment of reckless response display a deformed soul?
Officer Barnes is brought into the experimental development of the virtual reality as a part of his rehabilitation. Because of this, he becomes the favorite opponent of Sid 6.7.
Demonstrating his true self, Barnes shows courage, compassion, commitment and love.
In a creative insertion of the plot, Sid 6.7 has the personae of the murder who killed Barnes’ wife and children in real life.
As he mimics the original murder’s crime, Sid 6.7 ends up providing Barnes with the opportunity to save the life of his partner’s little girl. Though the film does not continue with the theme of his atoning the death of his own daughter, the sense we get is that this provides him opportunity to be healed of his pain.
In a clever turn of the plot, there are some interplays of reality and virtual reality which play with our minds and cause us to question what is real and what is “virtually” real throughout the film.
Virtuosity is a violent film which does not satisfy the deeper questions of our ability to “create” reality.
But the discussion that Sid 6.7 has with his creator, Lindenmeyer , causes us to be sensitive to the issues.
When we create, our creations will be a part of who we are, both for good and for ill. Only time will tell what that creation will ultimately achieve.