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The Machine (2013), far from a dystopian robophobia film, this elegantly depicts the development of artificial sentience and deserves your attention.

November 22, 2014

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MY CALL: Hardly an action movie at all, this clever sci-fi film is much more about the gracefully naïve evolution of sentience in an artificial being. And at that, it does a fantastic job! You hardly notice the humble budget, which was handled very well. MOVIES LIKE The Machine: There are many movies which do well in the depiction of realizing self-awareness and conscious learning in cyborgs and other forms of artificial intelligence, yet I fail to find in proper similarity between any such movies as a whole and The Machine. Consider that a major selling point as to why you shouldn’t miss this one!

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During a Cold War with China in the future, a new kind of arms race begins to create artificial intelligence. And like SkyNet (Terminator, T2), HAL (2001: A Space Odyssey), ARIIA (Eagle Eye), David (Prometheus) and VIKI (I, Robot) have taught us, this never tends to turn out well. Kind of has me wondering about this Siri phone voice chick now. Speaking of which, there is a lady Cyborg in this movie named Suri.

This film captured my interest right away. In the first act of the story our lead scientist Vincent’s (Toby Stephens; Black Sails, Robin Hood) approach to assessing a program’s self-awareness and human-like cognizance involved thought exercises that are brilliantly simple, they make sense to us (the viewers), and we can tell when they’re successful or not. Adding conflict to the story, Vincent has a dying young girl with brain damage who lacks even the self-awareness of the programs he is assessing. But great things can emerge from conflict. And whereas this family-centric conflict finds little development through the course of the story, the film remains quite successful in its greater aims.

Vincent’s place of employment is a research facility littered with early prototype cyborgs made from brain damaged ex-soldiers that have lost their capacity for oral speech…and they all seem shady, untrustworthy and dangerous. They also seem to house a mystery.

Vincent takes young scientist Ava (Caity Lotz; The Pact, Arrow) under his wing to develop next-gen artificial intelligence and she is much more sympathetic to their Cyborg subjects. Ava is very curious, and that’s not good in an industry loaded with secrets.

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Long story short, Vincent makes a Cyborg with Ava’s consciousness. Cyborg Ava is smarter, more aware, and more compassionate than past prototypes and has an immediate attachment to Vincent. But she is also naïve, scared, easily manipulated, and modifiable. Caity Lotz does an even finer job playing the enchantingly child-like Cyborg as she does the scientist.

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When the action begins (towards the end), Caity Lotz convincingly moves with robotic precision in brilliant contrast to an elegant and tastefully shadowed nude dance scene humanizing her early in her development. The action is nothing special, but it’s every bit as good as it needs to be to keep our attention–with a few brutally cold, robotic, and entertaining moments.

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She reminds me of a better-acted version of Jean-Claude Van Damme in Universal Soldier.

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Written and directed by someone (Caradog W. James; Little White Lies) of little experience in the sci-fi genre, I feel this film was extremely successful in concept execution, did a solid job of world-building (despite the limited sets and budget), a nice job in story development, and a perfect job in depicting Cyborg-Ava’s mental development.

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This tasteful dance scene shows Ava-borg discovering music and self-expression. It sounds lame, but this was a deep, impacting scene.

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This is surely a must-see for any fan of Sci-Fi. Just don’t go in expecting laser guns and six-armed monsters. This one is a bit more subtle.

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