Hey there, I’m Jared. I have 500 movies and shows in my Instant Queue and that’s just way too many. I’m not adding anymore movies or shows to it until it’s empty. So, I’m going to start at Number One and work my way down the list and give you guys a choice of the next five in my queue, in order, all the way to the end. But, I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that too. Let’s get to it!
What’s the movie? The Machine (2013)
What’s it rated? Rated R for questions about humanity, weird nudity and quite a bit of computer generated blood.
Did people make it? Written and Directed by Caradog W. James. Acted by Toby Stephens, Caity Lotz, Sam Hazeldine and Denis Lawson.
What’s it like in one sentence? One o’ them “Do Robots Have Souls” type-a thingies.
Why did you watch it? WeAreLegion through this one on the table.
What’s it about in one paragraph? As a cold war with China ramps up, a brilliant scientist in Great Britain is working with the Ministry of Defense to create stable cyborgs to fight a possible war, while also helping injured soldiers to cognitively function again. But the scientist is mostly interested in finding a cure for his daughter who is suffering from a neurological disorder. As he intensifies his research, a new type of cyborg falls into his lap and he must decide whether to use the machine as a weapon or for a possible window into the future of all life on Earth.
Play or remove from my queue? I would play it because it’s awfully pretty to look at, but also heavily flawed around almost every corner. The entirety of the film almost plays like a reel for writer/director Caradog W. James than it does a fully realized science fiction film.
The biggest problem with the film is the James’ script doesn’t fully live up to his visuals. The cyborgs have eye-popping yet subtle lights under their skin that light up when they’re in darkness, making the film constantly atmospheric and beautiful to look at. There’s this flickering blue glow in their eyes that never fails to haunt even though it’s used quite a bit. The framing, the performances, the score and the production design all combine to create a film that’s wonderful to look at while simultaneously being as dull as dish washers.
I think at some point James maybe thought his script was more profoundly original that it was and focused most of the time on his big ideas instead of the characters populating his world. The idea of a machine that is created for war but has a soul is something that has been used at least a dozen times that I can think of off the top of my head, so the people dealing with that need to be compelling. Toby Stephens as Dr. Vincent McCarthy just doesn’t have enough going on to carry the movie and the first half of the film barely crawls along as we watch him deal with his daughter’s illness. That aspect of his character defines everything he does in the film and it’s just not interesting to watch. Stephen’s performance is fine, it’s just not dynamic enough to make for compelling cinema. Caity Lotz’s performance as the machine is an incredible marriage of acting and sound design as her voice is simultaneously heartbreaking and haunting.
Because we never care about any of the characters or get to know them on a level deeper than surface, the second half of the film is exciting and frustrating because it all would mean so much more if we were emotionally invested in what we were seeing. As fun as it is to watch the cyborg soldiers fight against their masters, their choice to do that carries no weight. The villain is evil and infuriating but his dialogue is all so mustache-twirly that it’s really hard to root for him to fail instead of just get turned off by him every time he’s on screen.
But the ending! Holy shit the final 30 seconds of the movie is gorgeous and almost enough to make up for what came before. The ending not only ties all of the thematic context together, but gives our two leads a beautiful character moment. But that’s the problem right there, the character work is always secondary to the shoegazey big ideas the story wants to focus on. It’s all a little too little too late.
Anyway, I might be the minority in feeling let down by this one because Rotten Tomatoes seems to love it, but I need more than thematic depth to be carried away by a film. As much as I admired the technique and stylistic moodiness, I was pretty bored for most of the running time. But, again, that fucking ending is lovely.
How’s the music? The score by Tom Raybould is an awesome Carpenter-esque throwback that made me smile throughout.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Dark Space (been meaning to watch this for a while), Antisocial (not too sure about that one), Crawlspace (pretty bad), How I Live Now (excited to see this) and Farscape (still only seen season one).
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? The machines in this are all speaking Farsi. That’s pretty badass.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.5
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 2.5
Can you link to the movie? As you wish.
Any last thoughts? After watching her in this, I’m starting to think maybe Caity Lotz was wasted on Arrow. She was good on that, but really only had one mode to play the entire time: tough. She has tons of stuff to do in this and now I count myself a fan.
What else you watching? Just finished Season 2 of The Newsroom. I don’t know why everyone hates that show, but I think it’s pretty wonderful.
Next Week? We got lots of choices. War of the Arrows, Plus 1, Prototype X29A, Rampage or Redemption.