In a future where the West is on the verge of a global war with China, troubled military scientist Vincent (Toby Stephens) is using cutting edge cybernetic technology to repair the bodies and minds of wounded soldiers.
Desperate to perfect his research, he hires Artifical Intelligence expert Ava (Caity Lotz), who only agrees to help after discovering he is secretly trying to heal his disabled daughter. But when she stumbles on the project’s ultimate goal: the creation of cyborg soldiers, Ava is executed on the orders of Vincent’s superior (Denis Lawson).
Using Ava’s scans and likeness, Vincent then creates his Machine, which turns out to be more human than humanoid, causing the scientist to rethink where he’s true loyalties lie….
Writer-director Caradog James makes a tiny budget go a long way in this Welsh-made sci-fi thriller, that’s so deserving of its many festival awards thanks to the excellent performances, effective production design and special effects, and an inventive story that manages to slip in some existential angst while paying homage to its sci-fi past.
Yes, its got bits of Frankenstein, Metropolis and RoboCop in there, but James’s tech-noir thriller also stands on its own as classy, clever sci-fi that also begs some interesting questions: Will machines in the future develop consciousness? Can love be programmed? In many ways, The Machine recalls more cerebral cinematic sci-fi fare like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, which also favoured social/political commentary over large-scale pyrotechnics.
But The Machine isn’t all talk and no action – just see what happens when Ava goes all Terminatrix on her masters – it’s just that this is the kind of sci-fi that makes you think. Plus, there’s Lotz’ nuanced performance as the humanoid artificial intelligence to savour, and watching her fembot evolve into a thinking, feeling ‘being’ is what grips you throughout…