DVD Review: “The Machine” Is A Terrific Sci-Fi Thriller

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Review by James McDonald

Two artificial intelligence engineers come together as they work to create the first ever self-aware artificial intelligence.

In the over thirty years since the release of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”, there have been numerous knock-offs and inferior imitations. The stars aligned perfectly for Mr. Scott and company and while there are reportedly seven different versions of the movie that were released to either test audiences or theatrically, no one can argue the perfection of the film’s visual aesthetics and the beautifully haunting score.

Over the years, I have viewed many of these clones that didn’t just try to pay homage to “Blade Runner”, they wanted to remake it and that was their biggest mistake. By all means, compliment and appreciate the work that has inspired you, whether it be a movie, a song or a painting but don’t try to reproduce it verbatim as it then looks like you’re simply stealing other people’s ideas and have no individual style of your own.

I hadn’t heard anything about “The Machine” before I saw it and I’m glad I didn’t. Watching the movie unfold in front of me was refreshing and exciting. Set in the near future, the West is deep into a second Cold War with China and in England, the Ministry of Defense is trying to create a visionary new weapon, one that will end the war with little or no collateral damage.

The program’s lead scientist Vincent (Toby Stephens) is the only one at the compound who has a soul and in order to create the ultimate weapon, the first robotic super-soldier, they have to perform their experiments on soldiers who have come back from combat either severely brain damaged or who are critically wounded.

Vincent genuinely cares about these soldiers and wants to help them get better but the government isn’t interested in helping them, they just want their perfect, imperishable specimen and if the soldier’s brain or body is incapable of accepting the implants, then they are tossed aside.

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In trying to create the perfect prototype, Vincent reaches out to fellow American scientist Ava (Caity Lotz). She has created the first successful Artificial Intelligence capable of evolving and thinking for itself which she has programmed from her own thoughts and consciousness. While on their way to work one evening, Vincent and Ava are ambushed and she is killed. Vincent is able to create the perfect body, virtually indestructible and then load the programmed version of Ava into its memory banks.

As she comes to life, Vincent helps her come to terms with what happened and guides her in her quest to become more human-like. He finds out that the company has other plans for Ava and he is quickly taken off the project and imprisoned with a looming death sentence but Ava is one step ahead of the curve. It’s quite obvious that the movie was inspired by both “Blade Runner” and of course, “The Terminator”.

With robots coming to life and wiping out humans, how could it not? But the great thing about “The Machine”, is that while it most certainly draws comparisons to other movies, it has its own story to tell and director Caradog W. James moves the narrative forward at a cracking pace, slowing down for the appropriate amount of character exposition before revving the action up again.

Toby Stephens played one of the better Bond villains in the ridiculously sub-par “Die Another Day” but here, he brings the right amount of humanity to a role that could have easily played out as mechanical and detached.

Caity Lotz as Ava injects a childlike innocence into her robotic self, trying to comprehend everyone and everything around her but in a split second, could turn around and rip your throat out before you knew what happened. Composer Tom Raybould evokes, in a wonderful electronic score, some of the best soundtracks from the 1980s, including the aforementioned “The Terminator” and “Blade Runner”. We need more sci-fi epics like this.

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James McDonald
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