Beyond Fright Review: THE MACHINE (2014)



Creating an science-fiction film that not only spins a good yarn, but also makes its viewers think is something that just isn’t all to common these days, as the majority of what comes out in the sci-fi genre seems to be either a graphic novel adaption of something popular or  a huge studio tent-pole film that never seems to push any envelopes, instead just pushing the buttons of viewers looking for a solid entry. Caradog W. James’ futuristic SciFi thriller, THE MACHINE not only DOES create something interesting and entertaining, but also offers up what just might be the best genre film of the year thus far.

Dealing with themes such as man’s quest to play God, and how we gauge what is “real” vs what is synthetic, THE MACHINE tells the story of Vincent, a scientist (played with very subtle brilliance by BLACK SAILS and SEVERANCE star Toby Stephens) who on the surface, is intent on creating the first artificial life that could and would think for itself, but has his own motives. When Vincent hires Ava (played with childlike charm by Caity Lotz, THE PACT, TV’s ARROW), he finds a curious partner, full of questions and with a kind heart that wants to do the better thing, as opposed to the military-sanctioned “mission” that they’re given. While the military wants the two scientists to create the robot to become the perfect killing machine, Vincent wants to find a way to make the artificial life into something that could possibly help save his ailing daughter’s life creating a dilemma between the scientists and the people overseeing them.

With a very solid buildup, and an unfortunate twist involving the military turning on Ava and murdering her, Vincent uses the brain scan information he had attained from her to create and finish the robot life, and when it’s successful, it’s the ethical and moral confusion whether he follows orders and makes her less human and more of a killing machine or closer to what a human being would actually be: empathetic, caring, and ultimately..loving, that sets forth a second half that just hits the ball out of the park, so to speak. The pressures put on him by his superiors, including threats to his life and that of people close to him, Vincent is forced to really decide what is important. It’s such a successful look at man vs. military, not in a anti-military way, but in more of a thematically observant look at how some humans want to create life and some want to control it.

While the story could have very easily veered into melodramatic territories, it never does, instead opting for one hell of a scifi story, one that is beautifully stunning, full of some great acting, and some interesting use of cinematography. The way the film is lit, is so wonderful, almost as if everything is supposed to lit to the extreme, that even in the dark the lights are bright, adding to the suspense of the film. Made even more effective by one of the best electronic-influenced film scores I’ve heard in quite some time (courtesy of Tom Raybould), THE MACHINE is one hell of a futuristic, dystopian-like journey through one man’s desire to save the ones he loves by creating a life-form that could also feel such emotions, all while having the ability to tear shit up, so to speak. It’s a solid, perfectly paced and brilliantly executed piece of cinema that deserves to sit alongside  great scifi dramas/thrillers such as THE TERMINATOR, GATTACTA and many more.

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