Sometimes going out to the theaters is hard work. If you’re anything like me, the fact that you have to put on pants is already a let-down, and you’ve already seen everything on Netflix so what can you do? That’s right, I have a solution that you don’t need pants for! Rent something on video on demand (VOD). There’s a recent trend where films are released online before they even come out in theaters, and it’s usually cheaper than the price of admission. Every week when movies come out on VOD, I’ll narrow down the best one for that week. This week’s pick is: The Machine.
Vincent (Toby Stephens) works for the Ministry of Defense (MOD) trying to find a functioning AI program, but also secretly finding a way to cure his daughters debilitating mental condition. The best he’s done is created a flawed brain chip that helps disabled veterans regain mobility, but leaves them unable to speak. On his quest to find the perfect AI, he encounters Ava (Caity Lotz), who has created an AI that learns through conversation and who is still innocent and pure. Not everything is as it seems in the MOD, and everyone’s intentions are not what they seem.
After an encounter with an armless military vet named James (Sam Hazeldine), Ava finds out from him that they are basically being held captive for experimentation while the rest of the world believes they’re dead. She decides to snoop around but Vincent warns her that doing so is not a good idea. He also tells her about his true intentions for his research, and Ava promises to help, but is then murdered by Chinese assassins (hired by the head of the MOD). Vincent is then left to work on the AI and get it ready to be transferred into a powerful, mechanical body with skin-like outside that he’s fashioned to look like Ava.
While Vincent is teaching the machine, it bonds with him, and even expresses feelings of love towards him. Unbeknownst to Vincent, the head of the MOD has other plans for the machine. Something more militaristic obviously. The machine faces a dilemma: Listen to Vincent, her love and the best man she knows, or follow the MOD’s order to become a killing machine. Her decision leads to an explosive end that not even you could guess.
This film lives up to the promises it makes, unlike Transcendence. The cast may not be made up of A-list celebrities, but this mostly television-based cast proves more than capable of delivering a great performance. Caity Lotz is specific, who many of you may recognize from the tv show Arrow. Aside from being able play a brilliant scientist, she also makes a formidable robotic femme fatale (with a little girls voice), who does all of her own stunts. Color me impressed.
Great Britain is known for its spy thrillers, dramas and even dry-humored comedies, but not too much for its sci-fi. This low-budget, high-achieving film shows us the UK can go against (and easily defeat) the multi-million dollar, Hollywood blockbusters currently coming out (like Transcendence). It’s not without its flaws, like playing on some very basic, clichéd robotics/cyborg/technological sci-fi films, but this is always pardonable as long as the film is well done. The Machine employs subtle CGI that helps keep it from coming off as cheesy, but instead gives it a very believable, almost Terminator-esque feel.
The Machine is a force to be reckoned with, coming from the last place we’d expect a good, low-budget sci-fi to come from. Lotz is impressive and has never been in finer form, showcasing her broad skill set and helping to elevate this film to a higher league. Meanwhile, the visuals help keep it contemporary, but also give it a nostalgic feel that reminds you of all the best features in your favorite, older sci-fi.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★(8/10 stars)
ON VOD NOW – Rent it Here!