PLOT: In a future where the U.K is on the brink of an all-out war with China, a brilliant doctor- Vincent (Toby Stephens) works for the Ministry of Defence, developing artificial limbs, and computer implants to repair wounded soldiers. When his new assistant- who had just developed a radically advanced new form or artificial intelligence- is killed, he uploads her work into a new robotic body he dubs “Machine” (Caity Lotz). Initially childlike, Vincent works to keep the benign machine from coming under the control of his war-mongering boss, Thompson (Denis Lawson- WEDGE!!!), who views the machine as the perfect weapon for war.
REVIEW: THE MACHINE is a film of ideas. Made on a relatively low-budget, it marks director Caradog James as an intriguing new voice in sci-fi. Much more cerebral than most modern genre fare, THE MACHINE takes a look at a future that may not be all that far away. Technology is changing by the day, and the idea that one day implants will be able to cure brain damage, or that new life-like limbs could be created, is not that unreasonable. But- would this technology be benign?
That’s the question at the heart of THE MACHINE. Toby Stephens plays Vincent as a classically conflicted sci-fi hero. There’s a trade-off to working for the government that he’s all too aware off. Sure, you get unlimited money and resources, but your work will likely be appropriated for deadly means. For Vincent, it’s worth it, as his only goal is to find the technology that will save his daughter, who’s been afflicted with a disease that eats away at her brain function. Stephens- who’s mostly known to U.S audiences as the Bond villain from DIE ANOTHER DAY- makes an appealing hero.
However, the focus of the film quickly shifts from Vincent to his robotic creation, as played by Caity Lotz in a dual role (she also plays Stephens’ ill-fated assistant). Her physical performance is very interesting, playing this creation that, despite having existed for a while, has never had a physical form before. Her joy eventually grows into fear when she realizes that the thing that makes her unique- her empathy and personality- can be taken away if she doesn’t please her makers. In most sci-fi movies, the machine would be the villain. Here, she’s arguably the most “human” character on screen (except maybe Stephens).
Along with the cerebral tone, Caradog James is clearly influenced by many aspects of BLADE RUNNER, and other eighties sci-fi classics. The test Deckard used on the Replicants was apparently based on the real-life Turing Test, and James uses that test itself several times in the film. The musical score by composer Tom Raybould is excellent, and seems equally inspired by Vangelis and John Carpenter. The visuals are similarly intriguing, with a dark look that reminds me a little of the way director Peter Hyams used to shoot his films in the eighties (especially OUTLAND).
Hopefully genre fans all over will get a chance to see THE MACHINE for themselves, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up slipping under the radar and has to be something that has to be looked for. Even if it takes a little effort to find it, THE MACHINE is worth it. Caradog James is one to keep an eye on.