The perils of creating artificial intelligence have long been a sci-fi preoccupation, and The Machine brings little new to the subject save for an ominously ambiguous conclusion about the consequences of making computers more advanced than their human masters.
In a future marked by a cold war between China and the West, “genius” scientist Vincent (Toby Stephens) searches for a way to cure his brain-damaged daughter via his government research injecting implants into injured soldiers. When his colleague Ava (Caity Lotz) is murdered, he resurrects her as an android whose dawning consciousness offers hope for Vincent’s little girl but strikes villainous bigwig Thomson (Denis Lawson) as a pesky obstacle to turning robo-Ava into a servile killing machine.
What follows is rote talk between paternal Vincent and his infantile-yet-intelligent mecha-offspring about the definition of “life,” all of it staged in dark, dank facilities illuminated by fluorescent lens flare, which gives the proceedings a derivative Aliens-by-way-of-new-Star Trek aesthetic.
Nonetheless, if the proceedings prove far too familiar, director Caradog W. James delivers a few striking images — the finest featuring Ava’s machine twirling in silhouette like a ballerina — as well as a sinister cautionary-tale finale made all the more unsettling by its use of a sterling John Carpenter-style synthesizer score.