‘The Machine’ is set in the near-future, in a dark world where the West is battling China in a new Cold War. Artificial intelligence has replaced nuclear weapons in this superpower arms race.
Britain is about to develop a robotic soldier, which looks and sounds human, but has a strength, speed, and ruthlessness beyond that of any living person.
Caradog James, the film’s director, says he researched the subject thoroughly: “I had an off the record meeting with a guy at the MoD (Ministry of Defence) and he’s actually building thinking, feeling machines.
“That’s the aim for the government, for the form of a weapon, and what they’ve done is they’ve started off mapping a slug brain, then a mouse brain, and now they’re working on mapping a chimp brain and you can see that it’s not far before – another 10 or 20 years – before they attempt mapping a human brain.”
English actor Toby Stephens plays neuroscientist Vincent McCarthy, who is tasked by the MoD to develop brain implants that will help war victims recover and be more efficient as partly mechanised soldiers. He also hopes the technology will help his sick daughter.
But when his new machine becomes a threat and he tries to reprogramme her, she goes on a violent rampage.
“There are echoes with Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein,” says Toby Stephens. “But whenever I’ve seen Frankenstein done, I’ve never really found that character very appealing. I never really empathised with him, whereas I hope that people will empathise more with this character because of his struggle to do this; and, for me, it helped having children, just really grounding that desire to save your child.”
The robot is played by US actress Caity Lotz.
Despite being shot on an obviously low budget, ‘The Machine’ has nevertheless won critical praise as a classy slice of cerebral sci-fi with a literary-cinematic heritage stretching back through 'Blade Runner' and 'Metropolis'.
Out now in the UK, ‘The Machine’ will be on limited release in other countries soon.