It sounds perverse to say “I feel sorry for a homicidal computer during disconnection” but I do, every time. And yet the last dying seconds of HAL in 2001 (starting at 4:50) is the only end-of-life scene I’ve ever felt sad and amused by at the same moment, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. HAL is obviously the most human and emotional character in Stanley Kubrick‘s 1968 classic, which is to say conflicted and flawed. On one hand logical and dispassionate, and yet wildly emotional and even primitive in the same breath.
Though he killed Gary Lockwood and tried to murder Keir Dullea, HAL did so in self defense as well as to preserve the integrity of the Discovery One Jupiter mission. And HAL begs for his life — “Will you stop, Dave?” — as he’s genuinely fearful of death. (Just as much as Timothy Carey is before his firing squad death in Paths of Glory.) HAL’s last few seconds — “…of a bicycle built for two” — may be the most devastating expiration in the history of film, but at the same time morbidly, ironically funny. And yet way more affecting than anything in Frank Darabont‘s utterly contemptible The Green Mile — a film that I loathe with every fibre of my being.