Please note there may be some serious plot details below, so I recommend watching The Machine before you read this review.
When the randomiser came out with The Machine as the first film to watch and review as part of the new Netflix Roulette series, I really didn’t know what to expect. I’d heard of it before, mainly because of my familiarity with Caity Lotz from Arrow, one of my favourite shows, but aside from the star, I knew practically nothing. I made sure to keep it that way when I went in to watch it, and I really had no idea what was coming. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised.
The Machine follows Vincent, played by Toby Stephens, a scientist tasked with producing the next generation of robot soliders to fight a war with China. Along the way, Vincent meets Ava, played by Caity Lotz, a talented programmer who has the capability to really advance their work. Ava becomes very interested in the darker side of the Ministry of Defence, which leads to her death. Vincent replicates his lost friend, but as the robotic version gets a free will, a deeper conspiracy unfolds.
Personally, I really enjoyed The Machine. I went in expecting absolute garbage, but it was actually quite an enjoyable time. Although it felt like a bit of a RoboCop rip off, it was a good time nonetheless. The story was very deep and twisting, which I didn’t expect, and similarly to Jose Pahila’s 2014 reboot, it raised some interesting questions regarding robotic technology, and what constitutes being alive and free. You can tell the film had a very low budget indeed, but this detracted from my enjoyment at no point, and if anything made it better. Since the film makers were unable to focus their time on Transformers-esque speical effects and wacky action sequences, more time went into developing the story and characters, and if there’s one thing I enjoy most about films, it’s the character development.
Performances were, on the whole, great. The cast is relatively small, meaning we were able to focus in on the main players of the film and really get to grips with their character’s motivations. Toby Stephens, who plays Vincent, was simply fantastic, and to be honest I didn’t know there was a male lead in this film, but he pulled off the scarred, broken doctor with expert precision. Unfortunately, the highlight of his career so far has been Die Another Day, but an actor this talented really deserves a break, and it’s a shame that this film isn’t capable of doing that. Caity Lotz is also very good, and it takes some finesse to pull off two characters in one hour-and-a-half picture, especially when these characters are so different. Even as just the cyborg alone, which is only on screen for around an hour, we see it really develop and grow into something powerful and really special. Both of the leads of this film are very talented, and it was a pleasure to watch them work together.
Another delight was the cinematography and shots featured in the film. At times, shots are very up-close, making some scenes feel very claustrophobic and tight, but then there are also some simply stunning establishing shots, particularly towards the end, that highlight the beauty of the world the director, Caradog W. James, has crafted. This is James’ first proper film, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him moving on to big things in the future.
However, not all was well and good. The script was a bit dodgy, and for the most part was incredibly cliched, which made it hard for the crew to tell a unique story, which is a shame. Around 70% of the film’s script is exposition, which is a shame, because this film really could be very intelligent and thought-provoking if it left the viewer to decide what is going on for themselves. Another issue I had was the pacing, which was incredibly iffy throughout. In some sections, it is action all away, but at other moments there are very sombre, emotional scenes, and there is a bit of a period where it feels very repetitive, which is a shame.
That said, I did enjoy The Machine, and if a sequel were to come out, I would definitely go and check it out. I strongly urge you to give this one ago, and not to be as stupid as me to assume that just because it has a low budget, it doesn’t mean that it is bad, because trust me, The Machine is by no means bad. I’m glad this was selected for Netflix Roulette, because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have watched it, and that’s the whole gist of the series, really; to broaden my, and hopefully your, horizons regarding films. The Machine is a solid recommend that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.
I give The Machine 7 out of 10.
Have you seen The Machine? What did you think? If you would like to take part in next week’s Netflix Roulette, be sure to either comment down below, tweet us @thatfilmbloguk, or to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, thanks for reading!