Monday 28 April 2014

The Machine

The idea of true artificial intelligence has always fascinated and haunted mankind. From the first time a robot was depicted on camera in the form of Maria in Metropolis, or when Gort first stepped out of the saucer in The Day the Earth Stood Still to when Robocop struggled with his former humanity, film has always focused on the idea of a living machine. Some films do it right while others fail, but what is clear is that appetite for such a subject still remains in the movie goers of today, just like they did when Metropolis blazed onto our screens back in 1927. Right now in the cinema there is Transcendence, a film starring Johnny Depp that aims to tackle some of these topics. However, while Transcendence may get a good deal of attention, another, far more interesting film is available now on Blu-Ray and DVD.

The Machine is the latest film to wrestle with the subject of artificial intelligence, and a film that does it exceptionally well. Directed by Caradog W. James, The Machine is a somewhat low-budget British sci-fi that proves you don't need a massive Hollywood-style budget to create an effective, thoughtful and stunningly beautiful film. The Machine is set in a future in which an on-going cold war with China has pushed the Western world deeper and deeper into an economic depression. Within this cold war creating an artificial intelligence has become the goal of humanity, much like the space race exploded from the cold war between America and the USSR.

Dr. Vincent McCarthy, the films main character, works at designing implants for brain-damaged soldiers. He's a dedicated and driven man, but once he meets Ava, a researcher who has effectively created a cybernetic brain with the capability of learning, Vincent's noble priorities start to shift. After Ava is fatally injured, Vincent decides to take the project forward on his own and mould the robots likeness in that of Ava's. The Machine focuses on Vincent's journey to not only create the worlds first humanoid artificial intelligence, but also with the moral ramifications that will ultimately come about once his goal is achieved. Blending a fantastic and compelling story with truly excellent performances, The Machine is the best indie sci-fi film is years.

The first thing that will come to mind for any sci-fi fan upon watching The Machine, is that it has been incredibly influenced by Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, especially in the visual department. From the moody lighting, harsh lens flares to the overall great sense of world building, The Machine wouldn't exist without Blade Runner. That said, it doesn't come across as a rip-off, but rather a film in the same vein, and this is welcomed because from a purely visual point of view The Machine is particularly stunning to behold. But visuals are one thing, without a strong cast The Machine, or any film for that matter, wouldn't stand on its own two feet. I'm glad to say that The Machine has a cast worthy of the important and ethical questions it raises. The journey Vincent finds himself on is wonderfully portrayed by Toby Stephens, while artificial intelligence Ava starts off like a child but begins to slowly turn into something incredibly threatening. Needless to say, Ava, played by Caity Lotz, is The Machine's centrepiece, as her work throughout the film is just top notch.

While it may get lost within the flurry of theatrical, DVD and Blu-Ray releases right now, if you're a sci-fi fan you'll seriously want to check out The Machine. It's a powerful film that tackles the tricky and often morally grey area that is artificial intelligence in a pleasing and even handed manner. Backed up by a fantastic cast and wondrous visuals, The Machine is a must for anyone looking for an original film experience.

The Machine is fully functional and gets a 4/5.


Denis Murphy

The Machine at CeX

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