The radio chatter during the opening credits will give you an indication of the directors’ intention to make this just about as contemporary as they possibly can. There are nods to the recent financial crisis, the need for greater investment and furthemore, the effect this may be having on the seemingly short-handed military presence at home and abroad. Given that this particular universe has Britain living through a cold war with China and you can see why national self-interest may become all consuming.
Hailed in some quarters as a flagship of British technical wizardry under a continued barrage of shallow pocketed investment, it should be of much interest to audiences what can be achieved in the making of The Machine as much as what they decided to show us on the screen. Consequences for the British Film Industry for The Machine living up to its goals and ambitions are wide and far reaching and a bar has been promised to be set which may do wonders, should it be reached.
The immediate tone of the film is far from optimistic. Living in a time where the threat of annilihation, militarily and/or commercially from abroad is the groundswell for the actions of the characters on screen gives the feel of the piece an immediate, edgy, urgent, pacy thriller. For all of the bangs and whistles, pretty flashing lights and green screen tomfoolery, it is the gravitas displayed that will make the viewer confident of things to come, rather than the admittedly accomplished design. Shot perhaps with a little too much lense flare than is acceptable without drawing criticism from the haters of such tools, the direction and shot choices are sophisticated and pleasing, yet not too extravagant to alienate more traditional audiences.
Taking its lead from a number of potential inspirations, such as Blade Ruuner, Pygmalion and even the likes of Metropolis on occasion, The Machine has a fairly familiar Frankenstein plot at its core, with the creation of a new artifical intelligence created in womans own image, in the form of Caity Lotz, who performs dual roles of both creative collaborator and ‘monster’ in the course if the films’ running time. The genius behind this technological breakthrough that allows Ava, the titular machine, to come to life is Vincent, played by Toby Stephens, who makes a welcome return to features here. Bond fans will, of course, know of his work and fencing skills as Gustav Graves in Die Another Day. Stephens is excellent throughout, bringing the much needed essence of humanity in a story practically bereft of a soul without him.
Given its type, The Machine does not dwell too deeply on the moral choices that such an invention creates, dispensing mostly with any theological or philosophical debate in favour of a wish-fulfilment for science-fiction fans, who are very well served. At ninety minutes, the story does not really have time to dawdle and director Caradog W. James never really leaves the audience wanting for entertainment culminating, as you would expect, with a sum of all fears finale that will keep you guessing until its conclusion.
In short, a very satisfying independent science-fiction project which looks sumptuous, which we can assume was the very first thing on the to do list when they first sat around the table on day one. It enjoys good performances from Graves, Lotz and Denis Lawson, who seems to relish the opportunity to play a part where he can be truly sinister. As British independent cinema goes, this is a great example of passionate film-making, overcoming notable financial hurdles, with a result for which they should rightly be duly proud.