Complete A-Z list

Machine, The


Stars: Toby Stephens, Caity Lotz, Denis Lawson, Sam Hazeltine, Pooneh Hajimohammadi, John Paul Macleod, Helen Griffin, Siwan Morris, Nicola Reynolds, Jade Croot, Jonathan Christian Byrne, Alan Low

Director: Caradog James

Writer-director Caradog James’ clever riff on Frankenstein, Robocop and (but considerably less artistically) Pygmalion postulates a grim near future where Britain, still in recession, is caught up in a cold war with China.

The Ministry of Defence believes the future modern warfare will be thinking robot soldiers able to fight and also to keep the peace, Robocop style. The project’s lead scientist Toby Stephens (“The Quantum Computer is the key to building an intelligent machine”) has his own agenda – he intends to use the new technology to help his sick daughter and, when his tests misfire, starts working with young fellow American scientist Caity Lotz on the creation of implants that will transform brain-damaged soldiers…

The plot thickens well when Stephen’s corrupt superior Denis Lawson (we know he’s evil because he smokes!) turns to murder to achieve his aim of creating a subservient killing machine. And it looks as though his dreams will come true with the creation of the apparently indestructible female robot that gives the film its title…

Given his patently low budget, James creates a scarily convincing vision of a dystopic New Britain by setting much of the action in the bleak caverns of the MOD scientific establishment and special effects that add considerably to the overall effect. The Machine itself, peeling from its initial robot-like appearance to reveal the naked body of a young woman, is particularly effective, especially when its beautiful eyes suddenly glow with a feral luminescence.

Tom Raybould’s over-emphatic and over loud score was a creative miscalculation, though.

The key performances are effective, with Pooneh Hajimohammadi creating a truly sinister character as one of Lawson henchpersons, James borrows cleverly from his obvious sources and adds his own ingenious twists to the basic creation of life storyline to deliver a surprisingly hypnotic and disconcerting British science-fiction offering.

Alan Frank

UK 2013. UK Distributor: Red and Black Films. Colour.
89 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 15 Mar 2014