In efforts to construct perfect android killing machines in a war against China, UK scientists exceed their goal and create a sentient cyborg.
So we have The Machine, starring Toby Stevens and Caity Lotz. It’s a fun little film, dipping deeply into the well of sci-fi tropes and reminiscent of several other movies, but The Machine puts it all together in a very interesting way, and one which does not sell-out its small studio/indie-type feel.
Vincent (Toby Stevens) is a scientist working for the Ministry of Defense, developing brain implants for soldiers with head injuries sustained during the war (and for another, more personal, reason). Although the implants seem to glitch the speech centers of the brain after a few months, the facility is manned largely by these “repaired” soldiers. His division is also developing advanced prostheses for those soldiers.
And, inevitably, with the search for better weapons, comes the quest to expand the brain implants into a more independent computer to control androids (based off of the prostheses technology), and so begins a round of Turing tests for aspiring programmers/engineers.
Vincent finds the closest thing to a “pass” in the work of Ava (Caity Lotz). As she begins her work with Vincent, with her programming and his artificial brain prototype, they draw the ire of the MoD director at their facility (Denis Lawson), who wants his weapons, and sees the potential to develop the perfect assassin in Vincent’s work.
When Ava is killed, presumably by Chinese forces intent on stopping the MoD program, Vincent downloads the programmed brain prototype into an android body made to look like Ava (as her facial expressions were captured to attempt to “teach” the brain how to smile, frown, be surprised…) in order to advance their research, as his personal project’s clock is ticking.
And then, the fun starts.
After accidentally killing a laboratory tech, Vincent commands The Machine (it is never given a name, except “Machine”) to never kill anyone again.
The rest of the movie unfolds as you might expect. The MoD wants its assassin, and trains The Machine without Vincent’s knowledge, while Vincent captures the neural data from his
dying daughter, whose mental condition is rapidly causing her death. Vincent is forced to disable the “intelligent/sentient” portion of The Machine’s brain in order to save the last copy of his daughter’s data from destruction at the hands of the MoD.
Doing so, Vincent is then taken into custody, only to be caught in the AI rebellion. His daughter’s data safe inside The Machine, Vincent finds himself alone, emotionally, in the exodus that follows. As the only human around, even his own child, now trapped in circuitry, would rather spend time with The Machine than her (its) own father.
Definitely similar to Ex Machina in regards to its female-formed, Turing testing, center, it also draws a bit of inspiration from “I, Robot” (but don’t they all…?) and even Blade Runner. But The Machine never feels like it simply grabs and copies; it feels like it’s the next step, not a re-hashed version, which is, ironically, what The Machine is supposed to be: the next step in AI.
A meditation on humanity, intelligence, sentience, and love, all wrapped up in a sci-fi shell, The Machine is definitely worth the watch.