Made with a tiny budget which would probably just about pay the catering bill on most sci-fi films, The Machine looks magnificent with some truly impressive special effects.
There are also some really interesting ideas in its screenplay, although many are never successfully explored.
In a near future, the MOD is attempting to create super soldiers built from injured human soldiers with prosthetic limbs and brain implants. But things aren’t going well; the software for the implants is making the soldiers go insane, and causing them to attack their own side as well as the enemy.
The lead scientist on the project, Vincent McCarthy (Toby Stephens) enlists the help of an American computer programmer Ava (Caity Lotz) who has created software for an artificial intelligence based on her own brainwave patterns. Ava is excited by the work but deeply suspicious of what is happening at the MOD base and starts to snoop into areas that are off limits, leading her into great danger. But Vincent, who has his own secret agenda, pushes forward with the creation of The Machine (Lotz again) that not only thinks like Ava but looks like her too.
Just as Vincent realises how truly ‘alive’ the AI is, he’s in danger of losing all his work to Thomson (Denis Lawson) – the man running the base and the project – who doesn‘t want The Machine to be like a human, he wants it to be a ruthless, conscienceless killing machine.
With elements of Robocop, Blade Runner and Metropolis, The Machine is bold, ambitious and makes extremely creative use of its limited budget (the special effects surrounding The Machine’s body are amazing and rather beautiful). But what it can’t do successfully is pull all the different idea strands istcontains into one cohesive story that has a satisfactory conclusion. This means that many questions are left at the end and you may well find yourself asking ‘but why did that happen and what was that bit with the strange language all about?’
However, this doesn’t detract from the film’s entertainment value and Caity Lotz is a real star in the making. If only other small, indie British movie’s had The Machine’s courage, ambition and imagination.