The Machine (2014)
Directed by Caradog W. James.
Cast: Toby Stephens, Caity Lotz, Denis Lawson, Sam Hazeldine, Pooneh Hajimohammadi, Lee Nicholas Harris, Siwan Morris, Sule Rimi, Helen Griffin, John-Paul Macleod, Jade Croot.
2014 91 minutes
Rated: (for violence and some language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, June 16, 2014.
Cutting-edge technology and futuristic dystopia collide in "The Machine," a sci-fi picture of modest means that looks more expensive than it probably was. Attempting to humanize an inhuman scientific creationthink 2001's "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
" meets 2010's "Splice
"writer-director Caradog W. James' modern variation on Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" doesn't necessarily cover new ground but does at least treat its subject matter with a rare thoughtful maturity. Toby Stephens (2007's "Severance
") stars as Dr. Vincent McCarthy, an artificial-intelligence engineer who has begun implanting the brains of scientists and injured war vets into the bodies of synthetic beings. From out of the untimely death of ambitious new colleague Ava (Caity Lotz), Vincent creates an android in her likeness whose consciousness he hopes could be the key to fixing the broken connections in his ailing daughter's brain. Although Vincent's intentions are earnest (if a little selfish), his superior, Thomson (Denis Lawson), sees her as a powerful vessel for death and destruction.
The first hour's setup of "The Machine" is better than the threadbare guns-blazing action payoff, but the exceptionally fine work of Caity Lotz (2013's "Battle of the Year"), transformative in the entirely different dual roles of Ava and the so-called "Machine," commands attention. Set in a fictional (but not totally unbelievable) reality where a devastating Cold War in China has led to the greatest recession in the western world's recorded history, Dr. Vincent McCarthy is aware of a potential in artificial intelligence that goes far beyond the government's harmful, disingenuous aims. His relationship with the female machine he has created is provocative because of the ethical, moralistic and biological questions it poses. If she is advanced enough to have a conscience and emotions and the capabilities of learning right from wrong, what is it beyond flesh and internal organs that separate her from humans? It is a discussion worth having as technology continues to advance, though "The Machine" never quite finds the heart to match its lofty ideas.