SHORT REVIEW: THE ALPHA INVENTION / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: MARK TOWERS / SCREENPLAY: MARK TOWERS / STARRING: BILLY BOYD, WILLIAM HOPE / RELEASE DATE: TBC
As sci-fi tropes go, they don’t come bigger than the subject of Artificial Intelligence. A.I. in sci-fi predates even the coining of the phrase itself by Forry Ackerman. Almost a natural evolution of the Frankenstein story, A.I. was a popular ingredient of pulp sci-fi. The likes of Metropolis, R.U.R., and Blade Runner have all tried to explore the possibilities of mankind replicating the spark of consciousness – usually ending with a cybernetic uprising by a load of robots with a right monk on!
It is to the credit of director Mark Towers that in such a busy corridor of traffic he manages to bring something original and unique to the discussion with his captivating short, The Alpha Invention. From the start, The Alpha Invention oozes class. The main narrative is provided with a two-sided conversation between a programmer and another individual interested in taking advantage of this breakthrough. The entirety of the film resides within this conversation, which manages to explore the nebulous nature of human existence and consciousness adequately within its 16-minute runtime. No small achievement.
The acting by the main two leads is top notch. Billy Boyd (you know as Pippin from Lord of the Rings) is a revelation in this role, bringing a much needed sense of intensity as the conversation takes its divergent pathways. The voice acting by his co-star William Hope is also pitch-perfect. We all remember him as the useless sod, Lt Gorman, from Aliens. Ripley would have no problem with his performance on this occasion, his vocals providing a menacing presence that further elevates this movie above your average sci-fi short.
The main discussion about the meaning of life and what constitutes consciousness will be a familiar one for fans of this type of flick, but it does go that bit deeper. Introducing the casual fan to the intricacies of the Turing test, which uses a computer’s ability to engage in human conversation to ascertain how close it is to achieving A.I. status, The Alpha Invention manages to address the mind-bending reality of life creation via silicon, and the level it manages to penetrate would be admirable in a two hour sci-fi blockbuster.
Mark Towers and his DP, Michael Spry, have managed admirably to complement these big ideas and compelling performances with a gorgeous visual look that perfectly balances everything out. The Alpha Invention is one of the best sci-fi shorts I have seen in recent years. Taking on one of the biggest ideas in sci-fi, The Alpha Invention is on a mission to bring us a genuinely fresh perspective. Mission accomplished, and then some!
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