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The Machine – Review

March 18, 2014

Film + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia

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From our world of global connectivity, corporate nations and the proliferation of technology into every aspect of our lives, comes an intelligent, complex and thrilling parable of our time. The Machine is a powerful science fiction film that depicts a dystopian future with intent of realism, whilst effectively exploring the relationship between Man and Machine. Instantly, films such as 2001 A Space Odyssey, The Terminator and Blade Runner and even more recently Her, come to mind. Each of them has or will become a paragon of our scientific and human development, all the while revealing the metamorphosis of cinematic science fiction. The Machine engages with a smart interweaving of an interesting and original story that succeeds in its vision. The cautionary aspects of the film are subtle and work as an exciting revelation with tantalizing and solid performances, daring action scenes and a scintillating soundtrack.

The film is set in recession-plagued Britain, where mass economic strife and global military competition has led to a new form of an arms race. War is cold once again, and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is battling against China to create a mechanized artificial intelligence soldier that is also a negotiator and keeper of peace. In the same way the space race, sports competition and propaganda in films were a frontier of the last Cold War, it is the advancement of martial technology that will apparently dictate the winning side. Toby Stephens is Vincent McCarthy, a scientist who is en-tasked with developing and testing these complex androids for the Machiavellian and purely military-minded MOD boss Thompson, played by Denis Lawson.

Within the confines of the MOD, there are experiments with fallen soldiers and their regeneration into these new scientific creations. Caity Lotz plays a dual role as inquisitive American inventor Ava who assists in this cyber creation. Her mind and body are infused with the most advanced technology to reincarnate her as the Machine. While she begins experiencing our world and human nature for the first time, it becomes apparent that Vincent has been utilizing the martial resources to attempt to save his dying daughter. As the dangers of the machines and the military intentions of man become more and more exposed, Vincent must do whatever it takes to save his creations both in life and in science.

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Directed by Cardog W James, The Machine blends together a myriad of genres to create a powerful palette of visual intrigue. The horror of the unknown is executed with precision in the scenes where the machines are being tested and unexpected twists in the story provide a thrilling display of cinema. Strong character development, inner conflicts and the relationships of Vincent with the Machine and his daughter reveal a number of thought-provoking ideas. The intention to destroy with our creations rather than preserve says a great deal about our relationship with technology. This in turn invokes the question of how artificial intelligence would interpret humans when it will become a self-conscious system. Caity Lotz represents this conflict in her illuminating, radiant and hypnotic performance, as both Ava and the Machine. It is powerful yet a beautiful rendition and Toby Stephens excels in his performance as a man on the cusp of two worlds – the rise of the machines and the fall of man.

In addition, Denis Lawson delivers an interesting take on the future villain, whose main evil is his concrete corporate thinking. Star Wars fans will remember him fondly as Wedge Antilles in the original trilogy. His ruthless and covert operation of creating the ultimate weapon is infused with subtle and controversial images. An example of this would be the soldiers in orange convict uniforms being forced into military experiments. Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer employed a similar tool in The Dark Knight with the prisoners on the Gotham ship scene. In addition, the film feels as if it could be taking place today or tomorrow, which further aids in the enjoyment of its vision.

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The production design effectively shows how a more realistic approach to our future in science fiction films can truly work. A lesson clearly learned from the pioneering Blade Runner, where its ‘future noir’ became a pantheon of science fiction cinema. In addition, the music of the film invokes the synthesized feel of that era, as does its cinematic approach. The soundtrack is a futuristic, rhapsodic and sublime harmonious assemblage that is immediately reminiscent of the end titles by Vangelis in Blade Runner. The action in the training scenes is furious and evanescent yet mechanic and precise. The spectacular climax is a great convergence of these themes with talented filmmaking that synergizes to create a compelling and riveting creation that is The Machine.

The Machine is out in UK cinemas and on VOD on Friday March 22nd

Sidney Malik