Vic’s Review – “The Machine” (2013)

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What’s it About?

Two artificial intelligence engineers come together as they work to create the first ever self-aware artificial intelligence.

Directed by Caradog W. James

The Machine”

8 out of 10

By Vic

The British Sci Fi thriller, “The Machine” is a lofty and genuinely thought provoking little film. It explores and handles weighty moral territory and despite the low budget, the movie is cerebral, dynamic and finely formulated. This film, the directorial debut of Caradog W. James, is a dark cousin to films from our nostalgic past like “The Terminator” and “Blade Runner.” It asks some very calculated but competent questions within it’s science fiction trappings. Do machines have souls? Can they really think? Can the soul, mind and essence of a human be transplanted and restationed into a machine? How do we know if an intelligent being is really alive? Could we actually fall in love with a machine?

Interesting enough, with “The Machine” being released right after “Transcendence,” one can’t help but notice the disaparities that having a large budget for a sci fi movie can create when compared to a film that has half the budget but ten times the imagination. James’ film takes place in the future where a cold war with China exists and prompts the Military to look to science to perfect AI and use it to create different alternatives to warfare including Soldiers powered by AI and Robotics. Toby Stephens (Black Sails) plays a Scientist named Vincent who, under the guise of helping the military, is really working on helping his daughter recover from a dibilating illness. He also has pioneered working with implants for brain damaged soldiers injured in battle or warfare to help them recover.

After a failure involving one patient, which resulted in Vincent being attacked, he interviews and hires, Ava, played by Caity Lotz (The Pact, Arrow). Right away, Ava proves her worth with an incredible AI program that impresses Vincent but also the head of the program, the oily and evil Thomson, (Denis Lawson) who is quite the baddie and manipulator with his own agenda. Through out Vincent and Thomson butt heads about the quality of the progress and the AI program being used to create killer soldier androids. When Ava is unexpectedly attacked by the chinese, the scans done by Vincent of her mind is transplanted into the body of “Machine.” Ava, reborn is a new kind of AI entity and as she displays child like wonder and immaturity, she can also be quite deadly when provoked. Vincent, torn between saving what is left of Ava in “Machine” and trying to serve Thomson is taken down a road of high moral grey areas.

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James’ film also explores other drama which involves “Implants,” that are drone like soldiers in the employ of Thomson and have a strange muted language and even Vincent’s daughter, who take a turns for the worst. The movie suceeds on many levels, though. Lotz, Stephens and even Lawson are all in top form and Lotz’s transformation into “Machine” is both heartfelt and profound as is Stephens turmoil. James’ also makes great use of his minimal sets and budget. Sporting little to no CGI, the movie rarely takes place outside of the scientific military bunker. One poignant and well composed scene takes place outside in a cemetary with a futuristic city in the distance shrouded in mist and fog. James knows how to build suspense and execute action and wonder. He does so by making us care about the characters and the story which is truly current and timely.

Even though the movie turns more into a sci fi actioner towards the finale, it still retains the importance and sense of fun that was established earlier. The show belong to Lotz (who has incredible eyes which she emotes from) first then Stephens next. They play incredibly well off of each other and Lotz’s “Machine” is immediately affable and effortlessly kicks ass when she decides to eventually help Vincent and the memory of his daughter (and also pummel and incapacitate the bad guys). Much of the well staged action is of “Machine” doing battle and fighting hand to hand but it is quick, precise and none too distracting. There is a lot of old fashioned fun in “The Machine” and I have to admit, for a film that is dark and sometimes violent, the movie still has a unique soul that is eloquent and stirring.

The Machine” is persuasive and incredibly ambitious within it’s small scale universe. But that’s ok. The movie looks and sounds great. It sports mystery and is not overbearing or overindulgent. The photgraphy and editing are in good form. Also, “The Machine” sports a very cool 80’s retro electronic score by Tom Raybould. The score is a cross of something that may have been whipped up by Tangerine Dream or Giorgio Moroder back in the day. Yeah, it’s that funky. “The Machine” is intelligently dystopian and impressive in it’s message and execution. It is a B movie with meat on it’s bones and despite some trite-ness here and there, mostly with the action and the formuliac “bad guy gets his” manipulations, “The Machine” is a pretty cool film. Lotz is amazingly watchable as “Machine” and she is the reason the film really works. Her cyber-chic twitches and innocent outlook is refreshing in the bleak overall outlook. Give “The Machine” a look and see what’s under the futuristic hood, you may find some decent parts sci fi and emotion. Recommended, gang! Enjoy.

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11 comments

  1. You seemed to like it even more than I did! Awesome! I am a fan of Lotz and think she can be quite good even when her acting is weak. Just has something extremely likable about her. In this movie, she did do a great job performance wise. Have you see the horror movie called “The Pact”? She is in it, so I figured I’d ask!

    • Yeah, I’ve seen that! I enjoyed it and reviewed it a while back. Lotz is indeed extremely like-able and is a very solid actress. I hope she gets more good material passed her way. I think she has great potential as she displayed in The Machine.

      Thanks for stopping by and checking out my review, man! Much appreciated. 🙂

  2. The more I hear about this, the more I’m dying to see it. I’ve been loving Lotz’s work in Arrow recently, and as such a big sci-fi fan it makes me really excited to see we starring in a film like this. I think your review pushed me over the edge, Vic, going to try and watch this soon. 🙂

    • If you can, Billy, make it sooner than later. You won’t regret it, man! I have yet to watch Arrow but I have read that Lotz is very good it in. She is amazing in The Machine. Just plain heroic and kick ass. Film has a great emotional center, too.

      I’m glad you liked the review and that you were convinced to check the movie out. Let me know, if you remember, when you get around to it.

      Thanks for checking in, Billy. Always happy to have you stop in and give your feedback, buddy. Enjoy your weekend!

  3. Glad you love it as much as I did Vic! I fell for Stephens in this film, after being a casual fan for some time and I thought he’s splendid in this role of a conflicted Dr Frankenstein type of mad genius.

    I haven’t seen Transcendence yet but your comparison sounds apt and it proves that bigger budget doesn’t always translate to a better film.

    • Hi Ruth!

      Yes, I was very impressed with Stephens, here, and was taken with the interaction and emotion he displayed with Ava/ Machine in the movie. He has incredible talent and certainly continues to diversify himself with some wonderful roles.

      Captain Flint is a complex character and he portrays him with such dynamic flourishes. I love Black Sails but I am a bit behind. I will catch up though. I believe I have about 4 episodes to watch in order to be up to date.

      I really appreciate you stopping in, Ruth and giving me some feedback on my review. It is always great to hear from you! Thanks 🙂

    • It is indeed ambitious! I think you may find a lot to like and enjoy in The Machine. I was pretty impressed by the story, acting and how they made the production look it’s best with a minimal budget.

      I hope you enjoy it and thanks for checking in. I appreciate it!

    • Glad you like the review! I was very surprised and impressed by this movie on many levels. I think you may find much to enjoy in it, especially the story, characters and execution.

      I hope you like it and thanks for checking in. It’s always great to hear from you!

  4. Another excellent review! I loved this movie as well thanks to story, acting, atmosphere, theme, and, well, you covered it all, my friend.

    I love when an intelligent science fiction film showcases how amazing the genre can be.

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