The Machine Review
Now most recently in the world of association football, everyone has got rather excited at the England team taking a psychiatrist to the the World Cup. This may seem rather easy to fathom if you have ever seen Wayne Rooney in full rage, but a lot of talk has followed about going from chimp to machine as explanation of the value of such support personnel. This idea suggests that the more "evolved" someone can be in moments of pressure, such as taking a penalty, then the more likely they are to do well. Again, Wayne Rooney - chimp or machine...what seems more likely?Anyhoo, our evolution away from primates and into sentient machines is the subject of this rather stylish Welsh thriller. Sad boffin Toby Stephens has been lured into working with the military because his daughter has a degenerative disease and he believes that he can help her by helping them. His quest is to place consciousness within a machine and he employs sexy American boffin Caity Lotz to help him, only to develop a nerdly romance which opens his eyes about military man Denis Lawson's true aims. When Lotz is murdered supposedly by Chinese assassins, our very sad boffin decides to use her template for the next experiment.
How humans are becoming subject to technology is a hot topic in many a sci-fi movie. The madness of HAL in 2001, Ian Holm's robotic science officer in Alien and the pinocchio stylings of AI. Popular themes as websites now buy our stuff, firefox corrects my spelling and even to get jobs or homes we now look to the internet to sort it. And, of course, we all want to live forever - to defeat physical death and live on as a spirit or as another kind of being is a subject that has inspired many a ghost story. The Machine taps into these themes but this is more a thriller than Tarkovsksy. The talky bits are very much in service of the story and the effects are shrouded in a dark aesthetic that adds to atmosphere whilst making any deficiencies less obvious. This is no big budget affair, it's a proficient solid conspiracy thriller with elements of sci-fi.
The moral elements come from counter definition with evil Denis Lawson who carries his own murk around with him and thinks nothing of manipulating the innocent machine into killing and maiming for Queen and country. Lotz's character is given a back-story as ethical protester, and Stephens takes the first half of the film to come out of his grief and prove he's a goodie. Now Stephens is a rather inanimate actor who has some of his father's eloquence, but he does so little at times that it's easy to question just how affected his character is by murders and human experimentation as he never seems to react.
Sure, it's hardly anything more than a cinematic soufflé, and it has it's cake and eats it with the ending without exploring the brave new world of machines made human. Still, this is rather enjoyable and a huge improvement on the costume dramas and literary adaptations that the UK film industry still produces when not trying to claim US productions as our own.
A really good rental and a keeper for genre fans.
This is the very definition of a bare-bones release on a region 2 disc. There's no trailer just a basic menu running clips from the film with scene, audio set-up and play options only. The film is presented just off 1.78:1 ratio in wide-screen and the transfer is muted with the very dark setting of the film. Contrast is good enough, colours are restrained and detail is acceptable within a softish looking presentation. There are no subtitle or hard of hearing options which is not cool. The two audio mixes are a sound stereo track and a pretty good 5.1 option. The audio is reproduced well with the music mixed to have appropriate impact and the often quiet dialogue clear and easily understood. The rear channels are well used and give plenty of atmosphere and ambience during the feature itself.
A decent bare-bones release for standard definition DVD. There will also be a blu-ray edition which I am sure will be how most fans would want to catch it.