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The Machine (2013)
Director: Caradog James

review by Steven Hampton

This year's British robot girl is named Ava. She's created by research scientist Vincent (Toby Stephens), who lives in a nightmarish future where cybernetics are militarised for a rather too familiar sci-fi horror affect; first as hi-tech solutions for saving brain-damaged war veterans that have a tendency to go violently wrong in testing, and then for combining an MoD-backed artificial intelligence project with a female humanoid. The result is Ava the android (played by Caity Lotz). She is built to find the limits of A.I. but eventually trained as a killing machine.

With a tight hair-bun and shocking-blue eyes, Ava is a fetishised droid in a flesh-tone latex body-suit, one that displays learning curves over her red-glowing mecha techne interior. She is a replican, not a replican't, who pleads innocence (with nudity kept in the shadows), but she kills on a reflex. "I wasn't broken. I was sad," she explains to her maker. Even before a first release from safety restraints, Ava is depicted as a primal exemplar of unique juvenile autonomy struggling towards philosophical awareness. Her combat training, after full bio-chip consciousness is achieved, transforms Ava from a victim of political scheming into the subgenre cliché of a bullet-proof terminatrix - a kung fu angel of death on the rampage in the movie's entertaining, and action packed, climax.

As Vincent conducts Turing tests on AI research candidates, the Frankenstein science remains effective, but the science fictional elements prove to be fairly standard and so the movie adds nothing at all to the existing themes of nearly five decades of robots in movies and TV. The Machine is most effective as a tribute movie to 1980s genre video productions, but enhanced by updated special effects of our post-BSG remake times.

Reminiscent of David Greene's TV movie Prototype (1983), and Duncan Gibbins' Eve Of Destruction (1991), The Machine is clearly intended to be more sci-fi drama than a techno-thriller, but it's slow pace lacks a bright spark of inspired originality and there are several scenes that fail to deliver the anticipated impact, partly because of modest budget problems affecting the sparse design of the gloomily-lit underground labs and the visible scale of this futuristic scenario.

The Machine blu-ray

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