‘The Machine’ a striking sci-fi experience in spite of a glitchy script

machine poster

The Machine

Written and directed by Caradog W. James

UK, 2013

Some maudlin producers must be kicking themselves given recent events, as the post-credits blurb of the new science-fiction future-shock film The Machine sets the context of a near-future Britain locked into a new cold war with China. Can’t we simply revert back to the 1980s-era Soviet aggressor, just like the good old days? In fact, this visually striking but slightly constricted work has clearly been deeply influenced by the selfish decade’s most accomplished sci-fi movies, as Blade Runner and Escape From New York echo through the chrome-plated antechamber, with a deeper umbilical link to the titular feminine form shadowing Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

Brilliant neural programmer graduate Ava (Caity Lotz) successfully secures a job at a secret government installation after her creation passes the Turing test, impressing senior robotics employee Vincent (Toby Stephens), who has been frantically searching for an assistant to help him in his secret experiments. The department is engaged in clandestine battle-poised operations to automate and enhance the lethality of wounded veterans who have returned from war, with the slightly pesky moral obstacle of their innate humanity and moral coding being obliterated at the altar of digital control by evil corporate overlord Thomson (Denis Lawson). When tragedy strikes and Ava is mortally wounded, Vincent resurrects her in titanium-shielded form, as a tussle of wills between Thomson and Vincent clashes to assert their domination over a new generation of cybernetic superiority.


Following his eye-catching 2006 debut My Little Eye, director Caradog W. James musters the best robotic beast he can with his limited budget and resources, invoking digital life in a Frankenstein patchwork of influences both cinematic and straight from the articles of Wired magazine. While The Machine feels a little slight in terms of posing deeper questions that inevitably arise around malleable digital intelligence and fails to offer any new insights or predictions, from a purer sensation level, it might win new recruits among the genre faithful. It harbours a throbbing, Tangerine Dream-esque score from Tom Raybould, and a sleek lens-flare lighting scheme from Nicolai Brüel, a pattern recognition from recent cult favourite Beyond The Black Rainbow and the rebooted Star Trek franchise. The plot, however, requires no hacking, and even the most automated independent observer will fail to predict how the binary narrative of Vincent’s terminal-daughter plotline and his leadership in neural programming might just spool out.

Similarly, the film’s pacing seems a little stilted and distracted, as major narrative shocks are punctuated with scenes that seem to have been inserted from further into the narrative, a jumbled coding entanglement that prompt minor malfunctions  alongside some rather illogical dialogue quirks. (“It’s a genetic truth that all women are terrified of spiders and clowns,” for example.). The Machine  begin to agitate when the corporate espionage plot lurches into next-generation pyrotechnics, as a few well-rehearsed combat scenes presage a well-manufactured climax, with a final image perhaps offering some sly commentary on the potential infrastructure of a post-nuclear family. UK-funded science-fiction cinema is rare, so despite the glitched script, it’s still important to salute to James and his crew for at least activating a visual treat with some impressive technical achievements, hopefully a portent of finer things to come.

THE MACHINE – in Cinemas / VoD 21 March and DVD/Blu-ray 31 March www.themachinemovie.com

— John McEntee

Add Comment

50 CEOs Who Never Went to College (and how they managed to succeed)
10 Different Types of Financial Aid
Top 10 Richest American Idols
V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
The 5 Most Expensive Wireless Headphones: Ultimate Auditory Clarity
25 Bachelor Party Movie Ideas
People playing the clarinet
10 Different Types of Clarinets
11 Different Types of Drums
7 Different Types of Roller Coasters
A bowl of oatmeal porridge
7 Different Types of Porridge
Shots of tequila
5 Different Types of Tequila (Plus Tequila Cocktails)
Fresh kale in a bowl
10 Different Types of Kale
8 Different Types of Cantaloupes
A Man in a Suit Opening a Car’s Door
9 Different Types of Car Doors
Headlights of a black car
9 Different Types of Headlights
19 Different Types of Construction Vehicles
Fire Truck with Warm Yellow Lights
9 Different Types of Fire Trucks
54 Different Types of Sports Played (Individual and Team Sports)
15 Different Types of Goggles
13 Different Types of Dumbbells
15 Awesome Alternatives to Skateboards (Plus Interesting Facts)
16 Different Types of Technology
man holding smartphone with vintage case
11 Types of Cell Phone Cases and Covers to Protect Your Expensive Smartphone
Black and Red Tablet Covers
8 Types of Tablet Cases for Kids, Protection, and Convenience
Camera, lenses and other photography equipments.
45 of the Best Online Camera Stores for the Perfect Pics