This epic sci-fi thriller focuses on a scientist named Vincent McCarthy (Toby Stephens), who is working on a top secret military base for a man named Thomson (Denis Lawson) to create life-like robots. While Thomson plans on using the end results for super-soldiers, Vincent secretly wants to create an A.I. to help cure his daughter, who is suffering from Rett syndrome. Vincent hires a woman named Ava (Caity Lotz), who has developed a highly advanced self-learning A.I. program, which they together finish, using a brain scan of Ava’s memories. When Ava is suddenly murdered outside the base, Vincent decides to create an android in her image, named only Machine. While Thomson anxiously wants to begin training Machine for combat, Vincent quickly learns that she is much more than merely a mindless robot.
It is obvious while watching The Machine that that plot owes quite a bit to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. In fact, I would almost argue that the film is a bit of a spiritual prequel to that film, in how it shows the creation of advanced sentient robots that are nearly indistinguishable from humans. I can also say that I saw a little bit of Robocop, in how Machine is essentially a robotic version of the deceased Ava, having both her appearance and memories. I have to applaud Caity Lotz for her performance as both Ava and Machine. As the latter, she gives the android a real childlike fascination with the events around her. While Machine looks and acts human, she still has certain robotic tics, which adds to her overall personality.
As with many films about sentient robots, one of the major themes in The Machine involves whether or not these androids have any rights. In addition to Machine, the base is filled with previously brain-dead soldiers, who have been fitted with A.I. brain implants. While they appear mute to humans, they are often seen communicating with each other in some sort of machine language, which shows that these apparently mindless drones are much more sentient than they appear. I also have to note that all the robots in the film have eyes, which grow in the dark, which creates some very eerie visuals throughout the film.
It is quite obvious from the start of the film that the character of Thompson only sees these robots as killing tools and he does not really want them to have a mind of their own. Most science fiction fans would recognize Denis Lawson as Wedge Antilles from the original Star Wars trilogy. It is definitely great seeing him play a more antagonistic role in this film and he becomes a man that you love to hate.
While films about sentient robots are far from a new idea, I thought that The Machine was a well-executed and highly enjoyable version of this concept. It is even more impressive that the film was made for less than $1 million, yet the effects in the film still looked great. This will definitely be among my favourite films at this year’s Toronto After Dark film festival.9 | REALLY LIKED IT