Review: The Machine / Cert: 15 / Director: Caradog W. James / Screenplay: Caradog W. James / Starring: Caity Lotz, Toby Stephens, Denis Lawson / Release Date: March 31st
The latest incarnation of Mary Shelley’s classic horror, Frankenstein, arrives with a sci-fi twist and a thinly veiled message about the constant battle between pure science and the military-industrial complex.
Vincent (Stephens) is determined to help find a cure for his daughter whilst researching and testing ways to improve the life experiences of war veterans who come home with limbs missing or sometimes even worse. The veterans are, for all intents and purposes, killed in the line of duty, such are their reduced abilities to adapt to the real world. As a result they are actually prisoners, aware that they are unlikely to ever see the light of day again.
Unhappy with the state of play, Vincent nonetheless uses his skills to assist the MoD with their attempts to create a perfect soldier, taking the time to try and help his daughter escape her own locked-in world. Thanks to a computer programme that is almost able to think and respond like a human, it looks like there could be breakthroughs on both sides, but when Ava (Lotz), the AI expert who created it, is caught sniffing around where she shouldn’t, their boss Thomson (Lawson) has her killed in what appears to be a terrorist attack.
Vincent decides to plough ahead and uses Ava as the avatar for their new product – The Machine. Able to think like a human, but with none of the flaws, it's the next leap forward in combat ready soldiers. Of course, as Skynet has proven in the past (or is it future?), self-aware technology is not always a good thing.
Although the overall synopsis is nothing new, there’s a nice understated feel to this British production. Stephens is good as the father, trying to get his daughter back. Thomson is typically nasty as the man in charge, but it is Lotz who steals the show, effortlessly switching from the savvy Ava to the almost childlike but potentially deadly Machine.
There is a whiff of Romero's Day of the Dead with the underground lab forming the key setting for the events as they unfold, but that just adds to the pleasantly low-budget feel. Smart, British sci-fi at its best.