Sunday 27 October 2013

THE MACHINE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2013 - Blade Runner Sans Pretense

She's Hot. She's Deadly.
She's Artificial Intelligence.
And she has a moral centre.
Watch the fuck out!
The Machine (2013) Dir. Caradog W. James ***1/2
Starring: Caity Lotz, Toby Stephens, Sam Hazeldine

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Two scientists. One's a babe (Caity Lotz). The other's a handsome single Dad (Toby Stephens). Once they're teamed up to develop artificial intelligence, they become a formidable force. They're working for a scumbag (Sam Hazeldine) who wants to use their research and development to create ultra-weapons to go to war with China. The Babe is getting too peace-nikky for the scum-wad's liking and is assassinated. Handsome Single Dad transforms her into a walking, talking, killing machine.

Their love knows no boundaries, but they continue to transgress the war-mongering desires of their bosses. Hell will break loose. And it indeed, does.

And indeed, with The Machine, we get another intelligent, thrilling, well-written science fiction film on a shoestring from dear old Blighty that puts studio-generated product to shame and even provides a sort of unofficial prequel to Blade Runner, but without that film's pretension (less so in the unfairly crapped-on studio cut of Blade Runner and more so in Ridley Scott's pretentiously masturbatory director's cut).

There is something delightfully exciting going on across the pond. Our former colonial overlords are proving that they're far more superior to America's bloated and intellectually meagre motion picture output - both old, and especially, new. The past year, UK delivered one of the best horror films of the new millennium (Citadel) and easily the best science fiction space travel thriller of said new century (Europa Report). Are these people drinking untreated water from the Thames to generate this great stuff? I wouldn't doubt it. Mutation often renders exquisite results via happy genetically-altered accidents.

Much like the other 2013 Bad-Ass Blighty science fiction chiller The Last Days on Mars, The Machine (written and directed by Caradog W. James) might not be hitting the same orgasmic pitch as the aforementioned Citadel and Europa Report, but on the level of thrills and (who'duh thunk it?) IDEAS, it's knocking a few clear out of the park.

Caity Lotz is one sexy cyborg. She love you good.
She love you all night. She love you forever.
You fuck her over, she kill you good, too.
Caradog's electrifying, funny and sexy thriller provides literate dialogue, fleshed-out characters (even within archetypal representations) and super-blistering sequences of action and suspense. He generates terrific performances from the whole cast, but none more inspired than that delivered by Caity Lotz. Damn, the camera loves this sumptuous morsel, but she also renders a cool and complex performance in what amounts to a dual role. Her first scenes she delivers a chilly blankness - not unfriendly or sexy, but she's clearly someone who has her very being locked on scientific discovery. She takes a shine to the A.I., realizing they're living breathing entities that are being exploited, tortured and eventually transformed into killing machines.

Her commitment to the cause becomes so intense and endearing that we're with her one hundred per cent. Once transformed into a walking, talking, ass-kicking babe-o-licious A.I., Loitz displays a sensitivity and warmth of character that exceeds even her "living" persona. Oh yes, and she kills - she kills REAL GOOD!

It's true that the film is derivative of elements in both Blade Runner and James Cameron's original The Terminator, but not annoyingly so and, in fact, it's closer to homage than anything else. But what homage! It lives, breathes and pulsates with the excitement of life and dazzles us as much as feeding us nice, nutricious and decidedly healthy helpings of food for thought. Most importantly, it keeps you on the edge of your seat, occasionally kicking your ass around the block and then some.

"The Machine" was an Official Selection of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012.