Review: ‘The Machine’ conjures a stylish sense of wonder, danger

‘The Machine’
Scene from “The Machine.”

A resourcefully stylish indie sci-fi entry from Britain, “The Machine” drapes sleek visuals over an artificial intelligence tale set in a top-secret British government facility where robots are being developed to fight a cold war with China.

Empathic computer genius Vincent (Toby Stephens) has more on his mind, however, than creating a weapon-strength, self-aware being for his military boss (Denis Lawson). Vincent imagines a revolutionary future in which the brain-damaged (be they wounded soldiers or his medically afflicted daughter) are given their humanity again.

That makes Vincent’s breakthrough — the Machine (Caity Lotz), an aerodynamic hot bod of a robot who can flip, fight and care deeply — into a moral battleground of sorts. With her slick-backed hair, Lotz is a cyberblond right out of Hitchcock’s dystopian fantasies.

PHOTOS: Box office top 10 of 2013


Writer-director Caradog W. James is so enamored by the coolly designed future aesthetics of movies like “A Clockwork Orange” and “Blade Runner” that his metaphoric dark-and-darker lighting can get the best of him. (Being able to see an actor’s face has been known to be effective.) But even with a cut-and-dried approach to characterization and the issue of man-made consciousness, “The Machine” percolates with an elegantly palpable sense of wonder and danger.


“The Machine”

MPAA rating: Rated R for violence and language


Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Playing: At the Arena Cinema, Hollywood

Only good movies

Get the Indie Focus newsletter, Mark Olsen's weekly guide to the world of cinema.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.