Monday, May 12, 2014

The Machine (2013) a review... If I May Be So Bold.

I watched Caradog W. James' movie 'The Machine (2013)after reading a review which said that it was like the prequel to that most revered of sci-fi movies blade runner.   How could anything I thought to myself live up the brilliance of that masterpiece, particularly a low budget movie made in wales... But I was wrong.

The Machine was a wonderful and enthralling movie. Caity Lotz showed that she had come of age as an actor and her portrayal of a scientist and an Artificial Intelligence was anything but robotic. her dance background was obvious in the way that she managed to animate the machine Ava with a fluidity while still giving the impression of being mechanical. Toby Stephens gave a stellar performance as scientist Vincent, dealing with both the death of his daughter and working as the mentor for an AI. Dennis Lawson whose Sci-fi credentials include appearances in the original Star Wars Trilogy managed to encapsulate the Arch typical British secret service bad guy, exuding a cold calculating ruthlessness.

Unlike Blade runner which is known for creating what we know expect a over populated urban earth environment to look like, the Machine provides us with a very limited landscape focusing more on the confines of a military establishment, (It was filled at the infamous Greenham Common airbase) and an equally bleak and monotone hospital setting. The only wide shots are at the end which are there to signify freedom and a connection with the created world. Like a breath of fresh air after the oppressive surrounds of the military base.  Even so James' manages to transport us to a world that while vaguely familiar has the feel of being a dark future reality.

There were many scenes in the movie that mirrored and paid homage to Blade Runner it could in actual fact be a prequel. Testing to see if its a machine or a human is very similar, like blade runner the movie opens with such a test going wrong and ending in violence and does move to it being harder and harder to distinguish what is machine and what is human.  I particularly like one shot which showed the outside of the bunker they were working in looking very much like the building which housed the Tyrell Corporation, is this James trying to show us that this is the genesis of what we see in the Blade Runner future scape?

AS I watched the movie I found myself wrestling with issues of what does it mean to be human. if humanity is simply consciousness or is their something more. Is humanity about mercy and justice and compassion and caring or simply biology verse the mechanical. With Lawson's character being shown to be focused simply on a task at hand rather than considering the people and the wonder of what was going on round him. The Guards in the facility with their black uniforms act and react almost robotically where as the soldiers who are held prisoner-like and augmented with machine parts and computers behave more human like, they even develop their own language and aspirations to escape the half life they find themselves in. It does invite us to look at ourselves and to see what actual makes us human. Perhaps one can sum it up best by quoting that other sci-fi  classic Terminator 2... "if a machine can learn to love their is hope for us."

The film was well paced and didn't drag at any point. The special effects in this movie are great, understated and never detracting from what makes this a great movie the characters and the interaction. Although if I had one criticism the machine lighting up red was a little kitsch. I look forward to seeing what Caradog W James does next he I a director and writer to look out for... I'll be checking out his comedy "little white lie" (2006)  The movie is also, I think, a great advert for the welsh film industry. It will be interesting seeing the other plethora of movies being released at the moment  which deal with this issue... I saw Robocop (the remake) yesterday and despite the smaller budget and smaller palate on which to paint 'the machine' dealt with the topic much better although possibly not with the political sting of Robocop and its reflection on Us use of Drones. Transcendence is on the list to see as well. And after reading William Gibson and Robert J Sawyers the terminal experiment and the Wake trilogy I think it will have a lot to live up to.

No comments:

Post a Comment