As someone who unabashedly seeks out science fiction, I have been curious to check out The Machine for some time now. Apparently made on a shoestring budget (about a million pounds), brand new writer/director Caradog W. James’ work was a popular movie from the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival and winner of ‘Best SciFi film’ and ‘Best Leading Actress’ at the Toronto After Dark film festival. As a fan of Arrow I was curious to see Caity Lotz (aka Black Canary) in action, as well as her costar Toby Stephens, who has been quite fun as Captain Flint on Black Sails (an interesting miniseries on Starz, FYI, for those of us who like pirates). Truly, though, they had me at ‘self-aware AI stolen and gone wrong.’
Stephens, I would be remiss in not saying, also provided one of the most absurd Bond villains and fight scenes in James Bond history in Die Another Day, which was mercifully Pierce Brosnan’s last Bond film. We like Mr. Brosnan. We love James Bond. Part one of this clip features Madonna. Part two is an epic fencing battle. You read those two sentences correctly. May Brosnan’s Bond rest in peace.
Thank you for allowing my digression. Back to the questions at hand.
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Should I pay to see it?
Yes and no. Yes if you are a fan of science fiction and new, interesting directors of the genre, as I am, it’s worth the couple of bucks to watch on demand. And I will personally buy it when I come across it on DVD. The Machine is a tight, focused sci-fi story – however that’s part of what likely would restrict the film from mass appeal. Whereas the knock on Transcendence has been in how it casts a breadth of questions without truly digging into much interesting, Caradog James’ movie narrowly examines advanced AI and what it means to be alive/conscious. Not everyone will fully embrace the genre, which is perfectly fine, but this film is a brilliant example of a science fiction director and story clicking on all cylinders. Every bit of The Machine feels Blade Runner-esque. From the bleak, wet atmosphere and lighting to the grim and dirty texture of a future Britain. Even the oddly beautiful synth-robotic soundtrack functions as part of a tense, tightly spun hour & a half. The cyberpunky atmosphere works both visually and audibly. The scenery and sounds are both melodic and at the same time mechanical, grim and laboratory-sleek. While watching, I was constantly thinking of Blade Runner, in all the best ways.
Could I watch it with a date?
The Machine really is a neat, ambitious and thought provoking sci-fi film. The film is short, precise and well paced. So itll depend on the date. If you guys like talking about Issac Assimov short stories, it’ll be a neat viewing. If you don’t mind the genre, see the above paragraph for how cool this movie can be. Additionally, Caity Lotz is a badass. A big time badass. She’s already associated with superheroes (She’s on Arrow kickin’ butt) – studios would be wise to pay attention to her as they attempt to make some decent female superheroines. She did most of her own stunts and has generally proven herself as a fine actress. A lesser actor or actress in such an AI/Sentient robot role could end up looking and sounding ridiculous. Lotz excels. I enjoyed her performance and hope she continues her action-packed ascent (Seriously. The fanboy in me hopes some DC/Warner Brothers executive is paying attention. She’s the real deal.).
Could I watch it with my mother?
Certainly. This overall discussion should clearly not deter anyone. The Machine is a well made movie and a highly interesting piece of science fiction – and topical, we should all learn a little bit about the Turing Test used in the film and used for AI in real life. Alan Turing is essentially the father of Artificial Intelligence as we know it and the test lies at the center of both the film and the questions it poses. Any holding back I would term a ‘genre’ restriction. Truly, this movie plays out like a brilliant short story on the screen. Limited in actors (in terms of numbers of players), scenery and flash, the simplicity underlies a much more intriguing question and discussion (As all good science fiction does.). One could certainly enjoy this movie with your mother. Just be prepared for her to eye that new tablet suspiciously next time you try to teach her something on the device.
Did I mention Toby Stephens was the guy who James Bond so aggressively fenced? Just wanted to make sure.