Review: THE MACHINE (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Review: THE MACHINE (2014)

THE MACHINE is blessed with Caity Lotz's impressive dual performance and fascinating visual effects for a low-budget sci-fi movie, but suffers from uneven plot and dull pacing.

When writer-director Caradog W. James' THE MACHINE premiered at the various film festivals last year, it was greeted with positive reception including winning Best UK Feature at the 2013 Raindance Film Festival, as well as Best Sci-Fi Film and Best Actress special awards at the 2013 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and many other award-winning recognitions. Now that the highly-anticipated sci-fi movie has finally made it here in the local cinemas, I was wondering what makes this low-budget outing such a phenomenon in the first place. Well, it turns out to be not as good as I thought but rather a passable effort.

Set in a near-future Britain where the country is battling China in a new Cold War with artificial intelligence, UK's Ministry of Defense top scientist Dr. Vincent McCarthy (Toby Stephens) has developed implants for brain-damaged soldiers. Then along came Ava (Caity Lotz), a brilliant artificial-intelligence researcher whom Vincent later recruited her to help him materialize his project for making a fully functional humanoid machine. However, Ava is brutally killed one night by a Chinese rebel. In order to revive her, Vincent decides to take her AI and her likeness to build a physical clone dubbed as "The Machine". Vincent's creation turns out to be a success but soon, his shady boss Thomson (Denis Lawson) has a dark agenda against The Machine.

For a low-budget movie with such limited resources, writer-director Caradog W. James is certainly deserved an applause for crafting a cerebral sci-fi premise that honours some of the genre classics including METROPOLIS (1927), FRANKENSTEIN (1931), THE TERMINATOR (1984), ROBOCOP (1987) and the biggest influence of all, BLADE RUNNER (1982). The special effects are surprisingly noteworthy as well, and so does Tom Raybould's synthesizer-heavy moody score which instantly reminds me of Vangelis' iconic score in BLADE RUNNER.

Toby Stephens is decent enough as the brooding and emotionally troubled Vincent, but it was former Lady Gaga's dancer Caity Lotz (
best known as Black Canary in TV's Arrow) easily overshadows the entire cast with her striking presence playing dual performance, both as the level-headed Ava and another one as the lethal and chilly humanoid machine. Making good use of her previous dancing background, Lotz shows impressive elegance and fluidity of her body movement during some of the movie's physical action moments.
The scene where the physical clone of Ava, nicknamed as "The Machine", is finally revealed (which is an obvious homage to Brigitte Helm's character of Maria in METROPOLIS).

The Machine: What makes my clever imitation of life any different from theirs? Apart from their flesh, what makes them any different from me?
While the overall effects in this movie are laudable, the same cannot be said with the annoyingly drab production where most of the movie is shot in underlit bunkers. But the biggest problem here is Caradog W. James' inconsistent screenplay. Despite some of the thought-provoking questions that appeared throughout the movie, the story fails to realize its full potential. Not to mention the movie also feel draggy in places.

Despite most of the flaws, THE MACHINE remains a decent effort for a low-budget production.

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