The Machine Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
DVD released by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Written and directed by Caradog W. James
2014, 90 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Theatrical/VOD release on 21st March, DVD/Blu-ray release on 31st March 2014
Caity Lotz as Ava/The Machine
Toby Stephens as Dr Vincent McCarthy
Dennis Lawson as Thompson
Sam Hazeldine as James
Pooneh Hajimohammadi as Suri
It's the near-future and Britain is in economic turmoil. The West is battling China in a Cold War and the race is on to build the first artificial intelligence system for military purposes.
Doctor Vincent Mccarthy (Toby Stephens) is an expert programmer and is working for Britain's Ministry of Defence to help create an advanced android army for his hard-headed military veteran boss Thompson (Denis Lawson). The testing of his brain implants on dead army ex-personnel questions his morals, as, although they come back strong as intended, those that encounter mental defects are terminated on site.
But McCarthy has other motives to keep him in the game, and another comes along in young and bright computer expert, Ava (Caity Lotz). But only weeks after being hired to join the operation, she is suspiciously killed, leaving McCarthy only with her brain make-up stored on his database. Inspired by Ava's ideas and supplied with her mental functionality, McCarthy pushes scientific boundaries to create an Ava-like android, 'The Machine' - a machine so human-like, it struggles to believe it is as 'not real' as those before it.
The journey Mccarthy makes is in his field and personal life; the military pressures and boundaries his experiment is manipulated by, and how it is all warped by his developing relationship with ever-growing machine Ava is a captivating and contemplating one. Themes of compassion and human nature aren't common runners in the sci-fi genre, so the fact it steals the limelight from concentrated action-packed driven plots makes it all the more unique. When violence comes into play, sequences satisfy narrative progression and are impressively striking.
But its real darkness takes form in an eerie and menacing atmosphere. Inherent in the programme's motives and the despair its consequences cause, The Machine is an interesting look into human emotional capacity and a gripping ride from start to finish.
There's a 'bad guy', sure, but McCarthy isn't made to play the hero, and it's his ultimate helplessness and intense desperation that adds tear-jerking emotion and down-to-earth realism to director Caradog W. James' picture - and is a credit to Stephens' solid performance. Lotz too, dressed in a skin suit and bearing bright blue eyes, convincingly plays a strong female figure sure to gain a cult fandom.
Although the concept is as forward-thinking as most of its modern day sci-fi counterparts, namely Robocop and Blade Runner, W. James drenches his second feature with nostalgic genre conventions and cinematography. With a pacey, 80s-inspired electrofunk score and slick imagery, this is as much a treat for the ears as it is for the eyes. It's clear The Machine isn't a high-budget production, and it never feels the need to be. Keeping it enclosed (mostly) within the lab helps maintain a confined and well-focused, simple narrative, hinted with international context but not forced to juggle it.
The Machine is a sassy British sci-fi movie that breaths new life and a brave vision into the genre. Who said sci-fi romance is dead?
THE MACHINE - in Cinemas / VoD 21st March and DVD/Blu-ray 31st March www.themachinemovie.com
THE MACHINE – Film Premiere tickets: Weds 19 March 8.30pm, VUE Piccadillly, London.