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
8 out of 10
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.
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.