The Machine (2013) – Review

Director: Caradog W. James

Cast: Caity Lotz, Toby Stephens, Dennis Lawson

Release date: 21st March 2014 (UK)

Robot Wars

Miserable sci-fi as a genre has recently fallen by the wayside in the wake of an onslaught of superheroes and Tolkien-esque fantasy. There was a time in the 80s when tales of robots and science gone wrong was all the rage. Blade Runner and The Terminator painted a grim future devoid of hope that viewers living under the perceived threat of nuclear war and new deadly diseases lapped up. These days we seem to be more hopeful about science with films like Her and Robot and Frank portraying a hopeful vision of the near future. All of this means that The Machine seems out-of-place in this bright era of progress. Here’s why:

All that technology and she still can’t handle a ketchup sachet

The Machine is a Welsh (?!!) film that tells a cautionary tale set in 2020 where a cold war with China is in full swing and the UK’s Ministry of Defense is a participant in the arms race to counter the threat. AI engineer Vincent (Toby Stephens) with the help of assistant Ava (Caity Lotz) is attempting to build a military cyborg that looks like a human to infiltrate that pesky eastern superpower. Needless to say things go south and the android modelled on the recently deceased Ava doesn’t play nice.

The first point I’ll make is that The Machine is obviously a very low-budget film. This is usually a big no-no in the world of sci-fi but what the director does with the money is extremely impressive. The whole movie pretty much all takes place in an underground science bunker but the actual special effects are excellent. Ava pulses with an orange light that displays the technology under her skin and helps to convey her emotional state. Played by an impressive Caity Lotz, she juxtaposes a child-like innocence with a deadly violent side to her personality.

This is actually a really lovely scene

The Machine is obviously a throwback to the futuristic films of the 80s with its aesthetics and the heavy synth soundtrack channelling Vangelis and his minimalist chums. I’ll get this out of the way quickly – I’ve never loved Bladerunner. There, I said it. So It was enevitable that this movie would leave me cold. At least Bladerunner had the visual appeal of it’s wondrous cityscape, a club that The Machine doesn’t have in its bag (where the hell did that golf metaphor come from? I hate golf). The central theme of the film, whether an intelligent machine has the same basic right to live as a human, gets sidetracked by a subplots involving Vincent’s sick child meaning we spend less time with the titular machine.

He just made a joke about the ketchup incident

The Machine is a solid movie that throws up some interesting questions about artificial intelligence. However it becomes bogged down with its plodding pace and dull script. By the time the exciting climax comes you’ll probably be glad it’s almost over. Like its central character, The Machine is a strangely soulless product with a heart that makes itself present a little too rarely. One for grim sci-fi aficionados that might leave the majority of viewers cold.


Agree with the score? What would you do if you created a sexy killer robot? I’d probably use it to kill people. In a sexy manner. How many Welsh movies have you seen? Let me know the answers to all the questions in the comments below! And for a second opinion on the film take a gander at The IPC’s review of The Machine



Screenkicker Quality Index (SQI)







  1. I’m trying to think of any Welsh films I’ve seen and coming up blank… or what was that one with Sean Bean and the killer sheep… or something. It was crap anyway.


  2. A low-budget, sci-fi from Welch. I’ve heard it all. Nice review, and I bet this film has it’s cool moments and scenes but lacks as a whole. I will pass for now. “Plodding pace and boring script” scares me. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  3. Just reading your review made me realise… the director Caradog W. James hosted a film seminar I went to in 2012. Seemed like a nice guy.
    I haven’t seen this movie but with the poster, the title, the premise, it all seems very generic. It’s a shame, I think low budget sci fi can be great but it has to be original and creative – Robot & Frank is the benchmark now for me.


  4. Right, two things here. 1) Micro Machines, THAT was a classic game wasn’t it! Damned hard though if I recall? And 2) I can’t believe you have dissed Corey Haim there man! C’mon!!


  5. Well – I liked this much more than you did, obviously. I thought it was really well acted and loved the action in the big build up to the end. I also loved the reveal of what the soldiers were saying.


  6. Great review Mikey!! “…what the director does with the money is extremely impressive.” Indeed he did, I was floored when I learned how tiny the budget was. Now, even though this movie made me fall [hard] for Toby Stephens (whilst all the boys drool over Lotz, ahah), but I agree the plot could’ve been better. I gave it 3.5/5 which is similar to your rating. That said I still think it’s even better than big budget movies like Elysium which was an action adventure with no heart.


  7. Good review, I keep hearing about this film and you guys are making me want to check it out even it is not the best movie ever made. Did you know that in 2020 opening a ketchup packet is really hard?! And please do not ever make fun of Corey Haim movies he was the shit!!!!!!!!!!


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