It’s inevitable that the idea of what defines humanity appears in every film about robots. The most famous robot movie of all time, The Terminator, would not even explore this idea until its superior sequel. And Blade Runner, perhaps one of the most divisive films of all time, had already beaten it to the punch.
The Machine is more like Blade Runner than any other film that also explores this idea of organic versus synthetic life, while bringing with it a hypo-technical style recently modernized by director Joseph Kosinksi in his films TRON: Legacy and Oblivion, but only after the look had already been established in Kubrick’s 2001.
Vincent (Toby Stephens, "Black Sails"), a scientist experimenting in synthetic life, is in a tough spot. Though he’s willingly working for and accepting money from the defense department of a very future government to work toward recycling fallen human soldiers and turning them into warfare robots, he’s actually doing so to try to find a way to help his young daughter, trapped inside herself by a severe cerebral palsy-like condition. Ava (The Pact’s Caity Lotz) is Vincent’s new hire and someone whose own previous experimentation in synthetic life has made Vincent sure she’s going to be the one who helps to realize his theories and brings them to fruition. Well, that she does – after she’s killed and resurrected as a sentient robot.
It’s here we ask that question again. What is humanity? Is it flesh and blood, the brain, the heart, or the soul? All of that? None of it?
Wait a minute! Robots?? Run!
The Machine is a great little film, aided by beautiful cinematography, great performances, genuine emotions, an awesome retro synth score by composer Tom Raybould, and a refreshingly serious non-Will Smith take on the sub-genre. If you’re looking for balls-to-the-wall action, then you’re going to be waiting until the last ten minutes. If you’re looking for some kind of horror/thriller hybrid, then you’re not going to get that really whatsoever. But if you’re looking for a philosophical discussion on what humanity is, wrapped around a familiar but not overdone story, you haven’t been able to do better than The Machine since Terminator 2: Judgment Day.