Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Film Review: The Machine (2014)

Just as Britain is starting to get its collective head around emerging from an economic recession into a period of recovery, a homegrown film is released that says that we shouldn’t be too complacent about it as economic collapse is looming.

Vincent (Toby Stevens) is a computer scientist trying to create artificially intelligent software that will pass the Turing Test in order to implant into the heads of recently killed soldiers to bring them back to life.  His work brings him into contact with Ava (Caity Lotz), a radical graduate who has created a program that is more advanced than any Vincent has ever seen.  They begin to work together at the Ministry of Defence under the supervision of ‘Thomson’ (Denis Lawson), a shady military hawk who is trying to develop robots as the perfect weapon.

Needless to say, things don’t go to plan and the technology puts the progressive Vincent against the authoritarian Thomson over how best to use Ava’s technology…

2014 is a particularly sensitive year for British identity:  a referendum on Scottish independence, a European election that looks to be dominated by loud separatists (UKIP) and a World Cup that we are bound to lose.  The last thing we needed was a sci-fi film predicting that we are soon to be in the deepest financial recession in history (again), and in a state of permanent cold war with the Chinese.

The plot borrows heavily from 90’s technophobia around fears of the Internet and increasingly intelligent software, and the recent concerns about online identity protection.  The government in The Machine (the M.O.D) is capable of downloading your memory into a computer and then transplanting it into another body without your permission – which is a classical sci-fi theme updated for the NSA/GCHQ/Edward Snowden era.

The director/screenwriter Caradog James has borrowed the sexy robot from Metropolis, the programmable martial arts from The Matrix, the robotic solidarity from Terminator 2 and the Guantanamo style detention from Children of Men to create a low-fi British dystopia that has works as a miserable counterpoint to Spike Jonze’s recent intelligent design rom-com Her.

To top it off there is a ‘happy’ ending that in reality is so bleak it could only possibly be made in Britain.  I won’t spoil it for you, but just think about the implications of the final minute of screen time when you see it…

There has been some really impressive British sci-fi in the last decade and although The Machine has a tiny budget and will not benefit from A-list actors, it should be recognised as a worthy addition to the UK genre canon.

The Machine is out in cinemas / VoD from the 21st March 2014
THE MACHINE – Film Premiere tickets: Weds 19 March 8.30pm, VUE Piccadillly London

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