24th Mar2014

‘The Machine’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Toby Stephens, Caity Lotz, Sam Hazeldine, Denis Lawson, Lee Nicholas Harris, Pooneh Hajimohammadi, John Stylianou, Sule Rimi | Written and Directed by Caradog W. James


Robots fascinate us, just think of a movie or book that looks at the nature of robotics and you’ll be able to come up with at least one.  The Machine is a film that appears to focus on robots, and one of the main characters is in fact just that.  Underneath this though is an interesting look at Artificial Intelligence and the question of when does a machine become classed as a living being?

With the UK and China stuck in a cold war where the race for technological supremacy is the key to gaining advantage two doctors are given the task to build an artificial intelligence capable of being self-aware.  Vincent (Stephens) and Ava (Lotz) attempt to create this for the good of humanity, but the ministry of defence have other things on their minds.  When Ava is murdered by a Chinese agent and her image is used as the face of Machine, the product of their work Vincent is pulled closer to the being and becomes protective of her.  With the government trying to turn her into a killing machine though can he protect her from their objectives by showing she is a living being, or give in to their orders to dehumanise the intelligence.

For me the most impressive thing about The Machine is that this was never planned to be just an action movie, though we do get a bit of violence to enjoy.  The Machine is focused on the subject of artificial intelligence, consciousness and exactly what it is to be alive.  From the very start it’s obvious that The Machine is influenced by Bladerunner and is deep in Philip K. Dick territory with just a hint of Frankenstein, which is something that isn’t a bad thing.  Even the score in the background is reminiscent of Bladerunner, and for fans this tends to put you very at home with what you are seeing on the screen.

What will probably surprise some is the fact this is a British made film, and it’s not a big budget production.  What it does though is make good use of what it’s got, which includes creating an atmosphere of paranoia for the audience, especially seeing the army of injured soldiers who have been upgraded with implants and are nothing but a security force for the base in which the story takes place.  Often only seen because of the glow in their eyes you often get the feeling that they are planning something, especially Suri (Pooneh Hajimohammadi) the administrator of the site who is constantly surveying the security of the base, making sure everything runs to her satisfaction.  That feeling of dread that something is going to happen puts an interesting feel to the lighter story of Machine herself.

Caity Lotz as both creator of the artificial intelligence and Machine herself does an interesting job in her portrayal of the android.  Her childlike nature, she is learning all the time and Vincent (Toby Stephens) is her main focus as he is not only her teacher but of interest to her, something that becomes important to her story .  The fact that the government’s view of her is only as a tool for war raises many questions which are explored, although sometimes this exploration of the question of her rights as a living being sometimes comes across as a big basic.

The fact is though The Machine is a good movie that actually brings something that feels new to the puzzle of artificial intelligence and how we use it in the future.  When we finally manage to create a consciousness in a machine, when do we accept them as a living being with rights? What do we class as life? There are many questions to still be asked when it comes to this subject, it’s nice to see that The Machine wasn’t afraid to look at a few of them.

**** 4/5

The Machine is on limited release across the UK now. The film is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 31st May.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek.com

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