Starring: Caity Lotz, Toby Stephens, Sam Hazeldine, Pooneh Hajimohammadi, Denis Lawson
Directed by: Caradog W. James
Written by: Caradog W. James
Running time: 91 minutes
Rated: R (for violence and some language)
Reviewed by Michael Juvinall
What is in our future in regards to robotics and artificial intelligence? How far away are we from having robots that can think for themselves or is this just science fiction? For me, the purpose of a really good Sci-fi film is not only to entertain, but to make you think. To think about what might be or what currently is. Does the film The Machine achieve this…well, yes and no? Will robots of the future be similar to films such as I, Robot, The Matrix, or will Skynet become a reality? Can robots achieve self-awareness and think for themselves, or are we doomed if they do? In director Caradog W. James’ near future sci-fi thriller The Machine, they do.
In the not too distant future, we are introduced to Vincent (Toby Stephens-Black Sails, Severance), a brilliant scientist and computer programmer driven to create an artificially intelligent, self-aware computer program in order to help his brain damaged daughter. Vincent hires an accomplished programmer, Ava (Caity Lotz-Arrow, The Pact, Death Valley) to help him in his research. Together, they create the first ever self-aware artificial intelligent robot. Vincent has benevolent plans for the machine but the British Ministry of Defense wants to turn it into a weapon to help turn the tide in the cold war against China. Vincent begins to develop “feelings” for the machine, but once he discovers what the MOD are secretly doing, he must stop them at all costs.
Writer/director James has fashioned a dystopian future that’s both beautiful and disturbing at the same time. It’s a surreal world where the lines are blurred between humans and machines and what does it really mean to be alive. Does a computer program based on a brain mapped person with all of their qualities, memories, and thoughts constitute a living being? Can a soul reside in a computer program? These are some of the questions left for the viewer to ponder.
The filmmakers did an exceptional job in casting for this movie. Toby Stephens portraying Vincent was an excellent choice for the lead. He is able to convey warmth and passion very easily and offers up a real believability as a scientist trying to save his daughter. The heart of this film for me was Caity Lotz in the dual role of Ava/The Machine. She really captured the role of The Machine with her soft-spoken voice and incredible mannerisms of a robotic being. On the flip side, she was able to convey a real sense of dread as a kick-ass killing machine. Her athletic prowess is undeniable. Also of note is Dennis Lawson as the deceptive head of the program who only wants to create the perfect killing machine to fight against the Chinese. He will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if he has to murder those who get in his way.
The movie is shot well and has a surreal quality about it. What the filmmakers do with darkness and light is very ethereal in its presentation and looks quite beautiful.
The Machine is far from perfect though. The film is fairly slow until the last reel where the action set pieces really ratchet up the intensity. But by then, I’m afraid the film might lose some viewers. If you can sit through the expletive during the film’s first half, you’ll be in store for a rewarding conclusion.
Overall, The Machine is a satisfying sci-fi thriller that packs a punch both with action and story. While I don’t believe we are yet as technologically advanced as what’s shown on film, it really makes one wonder what we have available to us in the field of artificial intelligence and what we’re willing to use it for. Some of the technology is a little far-fetched, but the themes are not. How far will we go to define what living is? Can a machine be alive? The Machine is a thought provoking and fun piece of science fiction that most will enjoy if you really give it a chance.
3 out of 5 Pentagrams!
Watch the trailer for The Machine here,