By Dirk Sonniksen | April 24, 2014
Director: Caradog W. James
Writer: Caradog W. James
Starring: Caity Lotz, Toby Stephens, Sam Hazeldine, Pooneh Hajimohammadi, Denis Lawson
Caity Lotz and Toby Stephens star in The Machine, a sci-fi drama that continues a lengthy tradition of films pondering the ethics of AI research and the possibility of AI taking over society. The Machine successfully pays homage to all those dimly lit sci-fi films that were popping up in the early eighties, complete with a very eighties soundtrack comprised entirely of luscious synth sounds that make a man want to pull his Casio keyboard from the closet. In particular, the vibe of The Machine conjures up images and sounds of films like The Hunger, Looker, The Thing, Blade Runner, and Escape from New York.
Vincent (Toby Stephens) is a scientist working on artificial intelligence. Ava (Caity Lotz) is a doe-eyed student who desperately wants to work with Vincent. Vincent hires Ava on the spot, but things don’t go as planned, and soon Ava becomes part of Vincent’s experiment. Enter Thomson (Denis Lawson), the evil guy working for the military that steers Vincent’s project toward…evil! Meanwhile, Ava takes a shine to Vincent, putting him at odds with Thomson’s evil plan. Did I mention Thomson is evil? What unfolds is a battle of good (sort of) and evil (definitely) that could change the world, most likely not for the better.
Considering The Machine looks to have been shot on a meager budget, director Caradog James makes good use of locations in Cardiff, Wales and Greenham Common, a former military air base in Berkshire, England. James creates a stark dystopia of dark, unrecognizable rooms and hallways which are quietly traversed by the creepy inhabitants of the lab/base. Caity Lotz and Toby Stephens are a perfect match as our Frankensteinian duo who play the part of master and machine. Pooneh Hajimohammadi is great as the creepy leader of the creepy inhabitants of the lab/base. Denis Lawson rounds out the paragraph as a fine example of an…evil guy bent on pleasing his evil bosses.
The Machine is an entertaining romp through a not-so-futuristic dystopia and clocking in at 91 minutes, it’s a short, fun affair that won’t eat in to your busy schedule. If you’re old enough to remember John Carpenter’s heyday, the soundtrack will please; if you’re old enough to remember sci-fi films from the 80s, The Machine should take you down that nostalgic sci-fi highway that many of us pine after. If you fall into neither of the aforementioned categories, but are a fan of Arrow and/or Black Sails, you will happily have your respective Caity Lotz and Toby Stephens fix satisfied.