After making allowances for the fact that you’ve seen it all before, many times before if truth be told, the search then begins for something original, something you haven’t actually seen before. Well, there are one or two little snippets but that’s it I’m afraid because, as far as storyline is concerned, it’s really basic stuff. We’ve seen robots since the time of ‘Metropolis’, half- human robots, androids, ‘Robocop’ and sequels, even a man falling in love with his computer and in the dark labyrinth of a bunker here we have a creator falling in love with a robot/girl he’s just made. We all know that the path of love doesn’t run smoothly and, in this case, a third party is invoked, a devilish human, to put the boot in to true romance.
There are a couple of instantly recognisable faces to see, the first being Toby Stephens as the scientist Vincent. He’s been around for some time and is actually a very good actor, appearing in productions from James Bond to TV drama. Despite this being a rather low-budget movie with limitations, he makes the best out of it and gives a more than decent performance. Then we’ve got the ubiquitous ‘Star Wars’ veteran, Denis Lawson, who is also never off the TV. He plays Thompson, the bad guy quite convincingly. A more than familiar face, this actor has got the ability to play many different roles and in ‘The Machine’, it is obvious from the start that he is in charge with an unscrupulous devious agenda. Not quite so familiar is the actress Caity Lotz, mainly because she is younger and hasn’t appeared in all that many movies, but this American is rather good at her part of Ava, the machine girl.
Most of the action takes place in a bunker with lots of odd characters in strange situations. The soldiers guarding the complex seem to have scars on their heads from medical operations. They don’t talk but communicate through garbled messages intelligible only amongst themselves. Apparently, this is a rehabilitation centre for severely injured soldiers, casualties of the cold war that’s been going on against China! Nobody really explains why Britain is fighting China but that seems to be inconsequential to the plot, nevertheless Vincent has been trying to help out an unfortunate soldier who has had half of his head blown away. Electronic implants could be the answer and, somewhere in the complex, there is a massive computer which has an over-riding control on the damaged people. In this case, sad to say, the experiment doesn’t work and the soldier goes berserk, killing some of the people and injuring Vincent himself.
A group of applicants come for an interview for the job of Vincent’s assistant with Ava standing out in front of the rest, not because she’s a good-looking girl but for reasons of superior intelligence. Yes, well, strange as that may seem she gets the job and begins to poke her nose into classified stuff which soon gets the attention of Thompson. He has Ava bumped off by a Chinese terrorist and it’s not long before her personality and brain get stuffed into a computerised human-like machine. Vincent is not aware of the devious deed because he is more concerned about his dying daughter.
The transformation of Ava is spectacular constituting one of the good points of the movie but her training to be a machine soldier isn’t all that original. When trying to discover her weak psychological points, a cage is fitted in front of her face into which tarantulas are placed much in the same way as rats were placed in a similar device in George Orwell’s ‘1984’. As events progress, Ava and Vincent become emotionally entangled to the annoyance of Thompson who decides to get her brain adjusted to make her a cold and ruthless killer. That’s when things begin to get interesting!
Special effects are quite good and the overall quality is reasonable, though beyond that the script is somewhat lacking in imagination, becoming predictable mainly because as mentioned, originality is lacking. One of the annoying traits is the background music which is often overpowering to the extent that the voices of the characters become washed out. Experiments were carried out with another sound system where bass and treble were adjusted but this didn’t make any difference. Another point is that the title itself is rather unoriginal. ‘The Machine’! You would think that some imagination in the script office could have produced something a bit more evocative but no, it’s synonymous with the rest of the movie which is good enough but insufficiently compelling to make it in any way memorable.
Here we have a movie which will make a small impact and no more! It will soon disappear into obscurity which is a shame. Although the budget was relatively small, much more could have been made with a good script and a little more intelligent thought. There was also a problem with the characters in the bunker, the soldiers brought back from war with terrible injuries only to be experimented on by ruthless scientists with a criminal agenda. You begin to think of our own soldiers from Afghanistan to realise that the whole concept is utterly abominable and unthinkable to the point of being insulting. Such a thing would not happen in Britain, at least not at this present time, and, if anything, if this movie diverts us from that path then at least it has been worthwhile.
(Region 2 DVD: pub: Anchor Bay Entertainment. 1 DVD. Price: £15.99 (UK). Cat. No: ABD1187)
stars: Toby Stephens, Caity Lotz, Denis Lawson, Sam Hazeldine and Pooneh Hajimohammadi.