Cool, slick and a different enough kind of movie to the heavily saturated sci-fi zone that speaks volumes for British cinema and a debut outing for director and writer, Caradog W. James. The threat of robo-intelligence may not be a fresh thing but in this film it somehow feels like it is. The look this film achieves is very cool indeed.
‘The Machine’ finds two scientists striving to help severely wounded soldiers with implants to make them stronger. After one goes rogue the surviving scientist Vincent McCarthy (Toby Stephens) tries using the same technology to create a fully integrated machine for good to assist his ill daughter. The creation of The Machine (Caity Lotz) comes about through sly military interference and sets up the back and forth tipping balance of war versus peace.
Some parts of the plot may be slightly confusing at times and perhaps, however odd it is to write this, too far fetched in this land of robots and technical miracles. The lead character himself struggles in a bleak and bloody opening scene yet somehow survives, it’s a little too much to swallow considering how hurt he gets. I was hoping for some awesome twist in this story progression but alas that never comes, not that it ruins the actual ending sections of the movie. Another weakening factor is it takes a while to get into the pace of the film and not really until the machine starts being created do you really gain any thrills or momentum to entice you into the land of this film.
The film has moments where you feel like you’ve seen it all before and that does nothing to make this the un-Hollywood movie you want it to be but there are some scenes and ideas that keep you from feeling like you’re voyaging on a sci-fi trip of deja vu. The chilling torture with clowns and spiders or just the machine being pumped full of blood are stark images to stay in the mind. The glowing oranges vibrating around her body as she explores makes for good character exploration. The film may be predictable in terms of guessing at an ending but you can attempt to overview this negative in the dynamic appearance of the story.
Tom Raybould’s score is suitably futuristic and electronic in sounds. It rises and falls in perfect parallels to action in scenes and in general the whole vibe is cool as this film is. There’s a sense of a classic 80’s keys feel to the music and the numerous synths set the necessary atmosphere of this troubling environment the film is in. I suggest listening to the soundtrack even if you’re not tempted to see this greatly different movie to what is normally released all the time.
This film is seared with burning lens flares and soaked in a cold electric blue that gives it a fantastically bold stamp of identity, it’s a glaring wash of lights that J J Abrams would be proud of. The dark corners of danger in this underground bunker and science lab make for some thrilling shadowy shots and really help blow up that sense of paranoia and claustrophobia as mute machines constantly give Victor looks and a controlling man named Thomson who likes to get right into the mix concerning the actions and whereabouts of Victor. The visuals give this movie an edge of coldness and uncomfort as is needed for a film about this God complex kind of topic. It translates the message of tech being used for either good or bad in easy yet stunning elegant imagery.
Toby Stephens plays the scientist with a confidence and nicety to keep you on his side though it’s a pretty uninteresting character aside from wanting the best for his little girl. The real amazing star here is Caity Lotz who plays the bubbly helpful assistant and the twitchy learning and sometimes unnerving machine with brilliance. The subtlety in flicker of her mouth or glimmers in her eye as plays the machine is second to none and you get wrapped up in believing she is some built up piece of tech, beautiful but deadly nonetheless.
A cool idea cooly handled that only stumbles in a couple of places leaving us with a shiny piece of sci-fi filmmaking with enough smarts to forgive the downsides.