Genre filmmaking on a budget is quite frankly never an easy thing, that's why when it kind of gets pulled off, it's a pretty special occasion. "The Machine" tackles some interesting morality issues as we get closer to a future where robots are sentient and still makes it a compelling yarn without a ton of visual effects.
Britain's Ministry of Defense is on the brink of developing a game-changing weapon. Lead scientist Vincent McCarthy (Toby Stephens) provides the answer with his creation, The Machine; an android with unrivaled physical and processing skills. When a programming glitch causes an early prototype to destroy his lab, McCarthy enlists artificial intelligence expert Ava (Caity Lotz) to help him harness the full potential of a truly conscious fighting machine and the more he develops this machine the more he realizes that this machine is much more than any of them ever expected.
Granted stories of this ilk have been made before but "The Machine" has a genuinely earnest simplicity and charm to it that helps it overcome some of it's deficiencies and makes for an interesting watch.
Director Caradog W James in his first feature effort as both writer and director has mined some well worn territory but makes it feel a little more socially vibrant then past efforts as even though it is a NEAR future tale, it is the kind of story that is getting closer and closer to reality. While the pacing of the narrative wasn't great which led to our characters being developed at odd intervals, it still works as it plays like a dirty kind of dream as we anticipate a future that is not very pretty at all. Despite the odd tone, it has a distinct visual feel that while a little under lit at times plays into the whole motif and the experiments in this underground lab that want to be used for nefarious purposes.
While it isn't the kind of film that gets sold on its character work, Toby Stephens is quite solid as the military robotics scientist with his own agenda in the middle of all this black bag of intrigue and questionable goings on and he doesn't play it all with any overt drama or message as he motivations ultimately get washed into the greater issue as 'The Machine' becomes sentient. Caity Lotz is still new to the game but with each leading role she gets, she is slowly but surely carving herself a distinct little niche and is a leading lady to be on the watch for you. You don't necessarily develop star power or the ability to carry movie, you either have it or you don't and it is looking more and more likely that she has that kind of talent and charisma in spades. Denis Lawson rounds out the ensemble as our suit wearing bad guy, and while you may know him best as 'Wedge' from the original Star Wars films he works as a guy you just love to hate.
The only special feature on the DVD is an Inside The Machine making of look.
While it's not a film that will ever be accused of being flashy, "The Machine" masks its flaws and plays into its strengths well enough to qualify as a piece of science fiction that will provoke a little bit of thought full discussion while still being entertaining.
3 out of 5 stars.
"The Machine" is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand from all major providers.