The Machine

Director: Caradog W. James
Starring: Caity Lotz, Toby Stephens, Sam Hazeldine, Pooneh Hajimohammadi, Denis Lawson, Lee Nicholas Harris, Siwan Morris, Alan Low, Sule Rimi, John Stylianou, Helen Griffin, Ben McGregor, Jade Croot, John-Paul Macleod, Stuart Matthews, Jonathan Byrne, Clark Fisher, Joshua Higgott, Daniel Llewelyn-Williams, James Burn
Studio: Phase 4 Films
Captions and subtitles: English
Rental rights: 7-day viewing period
Purchase rights: Stream instantly and download to 2 locations
Format: Amazon Instant Video (streaming online video and digital download)




Some movies you find yourself liking despite of their mistakes, and this 2013 movie filmed in Wales is one of those movies. The budget is low and some of the acting is laughably stodgy. More importantly though the movie has an unfinished feel to it: scenes cut away too soon and some dramatic strands are never fully developed or exploited. (Chalk it up to amateurism. This is the wonderfully named director Caradog W. James’ first full-length feature. May he get to direct some more movies after this one to hone his craft.)

Also, despite an intriguing plot and three-quarters of running time dealing with solid science fiction aspects such as AI and the Turing Test (look it up), the movie veers towards predictability for its action-packed finale. It was as if the film’s investors (actually, the movie was made with state lottery funds) got nervous and insisted on an action finale so that they can splice some old-fashioned whoop-ass fights and stuff into the trailer to sell the flick.

The premise would be familiar to science fiction fans and is as old as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) story. A team of UK researchers wants to create a female Terminator for use in a perpetual cold war with China – a thinking super-soldier. Of course, things will go wrong, as anyone who has ever gone to the movies will know, but not always in the way one always expects it to.

For starters, the humans seem to be the villains here, particularly the manipulative and deceitful head of the secret research base. Most of the acting is bad but full marks for Caity Lotz (who can also be seen as Black Canary in the current Arrow TV series) first as the doomed AI researcher and then as the female Terminator “based” on her.

WORTH IT? A lot of The Machine plays as an intriguing drama for most of its running time and makes use of some clever lighting and camerawork to disguise its low budget origins. A lovely scene featuring Britten’s Sunday Morning (from his Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes) also sticks in the mind.

RECOMMENDATION: Unlike its titular character, The Machine is hardly perfect. However, any sci-fi fan looking for some material more interesting and intelligent than what is churned out for the multiplexes these days might want to check out this on DVD or Blu-ray.



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