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Machine, The (2013)

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Dose of Reality (DVD)Starring Toby Stephens, Caity Lotz, Denis Lawson, Sam Hazeldine, Pooneh Hajimohammadi

Directed by Caradog James


Slick and thought-provoking, Caradog James’ latest, The Machine, successfully depicts the age-old conflict between science and creativity, holding a mirror up to the problems that face mankind when our inventions begin to threaten our ideals and moral conscience.

Burdened with creating a perfect killing machine for the military (they always seem to have the best funding), Vincent (Toby Stephens) is trapped in a not-too-distant future where China and the UK are in the midst of a Cold War. Ava (Caity Lotz), another engineer working on the project, shares her research with Vincent, which inevitably leads to a breakthrough and then to her eventual doom. Through the science achieved, Ava’s brain signature is copied and restored, enabling her to live again after her life is taken suddenly and tragically. She becomes Vincent’s personal pet project, but as he struggles to develop this new Machine into a fully aware entity, the military bears down on him, demanding a super-soldier right out of the box.

Gliding about in skin-tight latex, Ava begins her new life as an innocent Pollyanna who isn’t aware of the sexual undertones. Director James plays with the ideas of submission and dominance here, militarily speaking and personally. Actress Caity Lotz is positively stunning in the role, moving with a mechanical grace only to look up inquisitively with an undying willingness to learn and be taught what to do. Vincent is also in bondage, beholden to the military just like Ava and the mind-controlled guards that served as the first stage of this desperate experiment.

As far as I know, Ava isn’t an acronym (like Data-Analysing Robot Youth Lifeform in D.A.R.Y.L., for example), but Vincent tries to make sure she stands for something before his jingoistic boss can corrupt her circuits any further. Whether he succeeds is revealed in the out-of-place action-packed finale where Ava and The Machine finally go fully online to wreak havoc.

There’s a moody, bassy synth score thumping in the background that wraps the entire film up in a blanket of cool. A future of bleakness that’s just a little bit sexy. James’ direction captures the feel of a still hopeful dystopia with flourishes of stark, foreboding imagery that shows an eye for what makes a particular shot look epic even when it’s just a close-up. It’s Zen and the Art of Sci-Fi.

3 1/2 out of 5

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Drew Tinnin