The Machine

The Machine

  • Largely because it is thematically compelling, The Machine succeeds.
  • To wit, despite the film’s title and plot, human beings’ relationship with technology is only one of the many subjects writer/director Caradog James explores, and it isn’t the one at which he proves most adept.
  • That is his never preeminent but always present political message: how much could companies and governments improve people’s quality of life if they redistributed just some of the money spent on militaristic objectives?
  • Most of the time James’ technical skill equals his thematic sensibilities.
  • Despite limited budget, The Machine is often visually stunning, no more so than when Machine (Caity Lotz) hides under a desk, trying to avoid conversation with Vincent McCarthy (Toby Stephens, very good), her creator. Or when she dances ballet, thinking herself alone. In both instances, James’ lighting is superbly mood-setting.
  • Most of the director’s other decisions are similarly strong, made all the more so by his obviously limited budget.
  • Near the end of the film, The Machine becomes an action adventure, which is also where it makes one of its more obvious missteps. The action is rushed, neither exciting nor suspenseful. It is the first time budgetary constraints seem to have limited the picture’s effectiveness.
  • The Machine’s other flaws have nothing to do with financing. They are attributable to a screenplay that under-develops the movie’s most important relationships. Vincent’s connection to Ava (Lotz again) is rushed. So is his relationship with Machine, or even his passively antagonistic association with his boss, Thomson (Denis Lawson).
  • Of course, the last has much to do with Thomson’s one-dimensional characterization. (Anytime a character seems happy to witness a murder right before returning to golf practice, that individual is probably a few steps too evil.)
  • The only relationship in which James invests enough material is Vincent’s love for his daughter.
  • Which is a big part of the reason that The Machine accomplishes its primary objectives, the most important of which is to make us think.
  • It also entertains. Largely because Caity Lotz is sensational. She plays two characters and is very good at both, though she shines brightest as the titular machine. Why? Lotz captures different stages of mental development perfectly. When we first we meet Machine, Lotz plays the character as having the mental maturity of a three or four year old child. Later, she’s more akin to a teenager. Then, a young adult, and finally a jaded grown-up.
  • Lotz is so good at capturing these different stages, in fact, that we don’t notice how much the screenplay rushes through them.
  • The Machine is far from perfect, but courtesy of strong thematic content and an even better central performance, it merits a recommendation.
  • Final Grade: B-

24 thoughts on “The Machine

  1. YES! I liked this one quite a bit!

    It has weaknesses but overall a nice little movie for a guy like me 🙂

  2. Good stuff Josh, heard many a good word about The Machine and Caity Lotz’s performance(s). Will have to make a point of getting on this (somewhat) soon. I say somewhat, because I believe a viewing of Rise of the PLanet of the Apes trumps all else this week. 🙂

    • For you and many others. 🙂

      I’m not particularly interested in the Apes flick, but I think I might be the only person in the world who says as much.

      As to The Machine … It’s pretty good, if not great. I think you’d like it.

  3. “Toby Stephens, very good” YES!! Well that’s all that I want to hear. I think he’s most excellent here 😉 That said, I only gave this movie 3.5/5. I totally agree that the third act is a bit of a mess, but I have a feeling that it was a way to *sell* the movie to showcase Lotz’ physical prowess and fighting skills. For me, the slower moments (like the dance scene and the scene under the desk) are the emotional highlights. Oh and the scenes of Vincent with his daughter is very moving as well.

    • Then I liked it more than you, but I agree it abandons the most interesting ideas in the end, in favor if an actiony hodge podge it doesn’t pull off all that well.

  4. Caity Lotz is improving in her craft. She has had some low points in the television show Arrow yet high points in her films. Not that I mind! I still love her regardless! She is adorable and very likable no matter what character she plays. Anyways, we actually agree on just about everything here.

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