Movie Review – The Machine (2013)

Director: Caradog W. James

Stars: Caity Lotz, Toby Stephens, Denis Lawson

Vincent (Stephens) and Ava (Lotz) are two artificial intelligence engineers who work together to develop the next stage in AI. However, it means working for the Ministry of Defence. Ava is worried that it means creating weapons, but Vincent is only doing it so he can find a way to help his daughter, who suffers from a brain-damaging illness. Meanwhile, the world seems to be at war and Thomson (Lawson) wants to teach the AI to kill.

Interesting premise and I’m always intrigued by films that delve into the nature of artificial intelligence, and Ex Machina is a stand out exploration of that this year (coincidentally it also features a character call Ava). However, The Machine is not nearly as tight as that film and it suffers from being muddled. As presented the world is at war with China, and the MoD seem to be creating an army but this wide scope is quickly abandoned for the more intimate story of Vincent trying to save his daughter, and it feels like the backstory of the war was just there to give an excuse to have the MoD develop the AI, which is fine but I don’t understand why the director spent so much time developing that as a storyline.

There’s also some hints of people with scars being ominous, but they talk in an incomprehensible language so instead of building up suspense it left me confused and unaware of what importance it had to the plot. The soundtrack was corny and felt like it was free stock music or something. The lighting was dark and always dim, and I wonder how anyone in that place could have done any work since it was continually gloomy.

But I at least admire the film for trying to be a character study rather than a generic action movie, it just didn’t totally succeed. I mean, the whole thing about Vincent saving his daughter is undercut but him admitting that even if he managed to port her brain waves into the AI framework it would create a new person, so his daughter would still be dead.

Still, there are some positives to take. I liked Caity Lotz on Arrow and she shows more range here than she did on the tv show, so fellow Arrow fans would probably enjoy it more than the average viewer, but I certainly wouldn’t be rushing it out to watch it.

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