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The Machine (Blu-ray Review)

The Machine - www.whysoblu.comI like when science fiction films – at least ones that look high quality make it under the radar for review. I knew nothing of The Machine, with exception to Caity Lotz starring in the film. She may be familiar to some, because she’s in another show that I do not watch called Green Arrow. Ever hear of it? 😉 What little I did read of The Machine was that it was the second coming of Blade Runner and such. Okay, that’s a bold statement but it did pique my interest. After I watched the trailer I was sold and had to review it for Why So Blu?. Keep reading to see if it’s worth your time and money.  

 

The Machine - www.whysoblu.com

Film 

The Machine is the latest entry in the science fiction genre that stars Caity Lotz, Toby Stephens, and Denis Lawson. Vincent (Stephens) is an AI engineer that is secretly working on a project that will hopefully restore his daughter’s health. Vincent does this in secret from his employer, The Ministry of Defense (MOD). His protégé, Ava (Lotz), is brought on board to work with Vincent. Under the MOD they are to design weaponized AI soldiers. I am obviously oversimplifying it. Ava discovers what the MOD is up to in that they are literally recycling wounded soldiers and embedding them with cybernetic parts using them as defense subjects. They have yet to perfect this as most of the wounded AI implanted vets have been malfunctioning. A creepy-cool intro to the film solidifies this.

Once Ava stumbles on what’s going on, her boss, Thomson (Lawson), has her killed. No, I’m not spoiling the story by telling you this, because what comes next is some of the coolest stuff I have recently seen in science fiction. Ava had been working on an AI that had the power to teach itself. Vincent uses this knowledge and merges it with his project to create a sort of new body for Ava as she is returned from the dead. Her likeness is still there on the outside but her body has been engineered to be indestructible. Ava and her presence are quickly known to the cyborgs that are currently stable and patrol the defense building. The leader of, or what seems to be the leader, is the sexy and unique Suri (Pooneh Hajimohammadi). She senses something in Ava and communicates this in a cryptic language to the rest of her literal flock of cyborgs.

After Ava is created Vincent is quickly stripped of his contact with her and is re-programmed by Thomson who really wants and obedient killing machine. Ava just happens to be the functional prototype of what he envisions for the rest of the cybernetic ranks. Let’s just say that Ava will not go down with out a fight. I enjoyed The Machine very much. It was a mesh of classic films that include Frankenstein, Equilibrium, Metropolis (it’s no secret that Ava = Ada), and Blade Runner. 

I think that the Lotz gives a great career performance that reminds me of Christian Bale’s performance in Equilibrium. The scene in which Ava, as a fully functional cyborg begins to dance is beautiful and only cements that comparison. It reminded me of when Bale began to cry as Mozart began playing on the record in Equilibrium. The Machine was obviously made on the low end but you would never know. The production design, effects, stunts, etc., look great. This also doesn’t look like a SyFy channel flick. It looks better than the typical films that air on that channel by a large margin. It’s scenes like these that really resonate with the viewer and set aside from a typical “dumb” cyborg flick. Ava is a great protagonist who doesn’t really know where she fits in.

I also like how the entire unit of production came together like family in its creation. I say that, because the cast and crew on their own have gone above and beyond what’s needed to pull of something special. Pooneh Hajimohammadi who plays Suri speaks Farsi as do the rest of the cyborgs under her command.  They obviously digitized her voice and those of the other cyborgs in post but it’s still pretty neat. Production would have normally spent funds to hire a dialect coach or someone to create a language from scratch. There’s no money for that.

The Machine is a very cool and smart little science fiction gem that should lurk around “cult status” mode as of now. I do hope that this positive review along with the other positive reviews out there propels The Machine to find a bigger audience. If you’ll excuse me I have to see if I can track down the music score on vinyl. 😉

The Machine -

Video 

Encoding: AVC MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: The Machine is grounded in the low budget world and it betrays that generalization, because it looks terrific in high definition. It’s demo-worthy, in fact. Sharpness all kept in check and contrast levels never fluctuate. This is very tricky, because the film does have digital filters in place but they have not been messed with in post.

Depth: You can literally drink from The Machine’s water fountain. This is a standard 3-D release and it really has major pop! You can almost reach out and touch the lens flares. I hate lens flares but not in this in case.

Black Levels: Surprisingly this film has several major scenes that take place at night and in very dark interiors. Crush never interfered and all was right as rain with regards to those black levels. Deep and inky is the name of the game.

Color Reproduction: This one could have been tricky, because a colorful palette will have inherent issues especially one that has gone through processing in post, which The Machine has, but I don’t know who or where it was processed but the color palette looks unreal on Blu-ray! I did not detect instances of banding or pixilation anywhere on this disc.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones appear natural and robust, with exception to Ava and some of the cyborgs on patrol in the main complex. It is all intentional.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing whatsoever to complain about here.

The Machine

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The Machine on Blu-ray sounds terrific. It’s a very action packed film that has tons of clever sound design that is amplified by the lossless DTS soundtrack. From the pulse pounding synth-score to the bone crushing hits Ava dishes out The Machines sounds amazing.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel handles the thumping and bumping of said synth score while adding some rumble during the firefights and sporadic explosions here and there.

Surround Sound Presentation: Duck for cover, because bullets and other sorts of debris will be flying all around and at you. The separation is fantastic on this release.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clear and crisp. Even the scenes of the cyborgs speaking their artificial language sound cool and undistorted. In fact it may sound distorted but they’re speaking Farsi with the added audio effect.

 

The Machine - www.

Extras

I would have loved to have tons of supplements included on the Blu-ray but it’s not always possible or available. The Machine on Blu-ray only has single in-depth featurette that acts simplifies what went into the film while having plenty of interviews with key cast an crew in addition to showing you how they designed characters, sets, and environments. You’ll be shocked at what was CGI and what wasn’t. It’s good stuff but way too short at just over fifteen minutes. A trailer rounds out the extras.

  • Inside The Machine (HD, 15:34) – A really making of featurette focusing on all aspects of the filmmaking process. Interviews with the cast and crew are also included. It’s a cool but way too short featurette.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:32) – Theatrical trailer for The Machine is presented in high definition. It’s a very cool little trailer.

 

The Machine

Summary 

Color me shocked and awed but The Machine rocked my world. It’s a cool little stylistic and surprisingly deep telling of artificial intelligence trying to be more human than human. No, on the surface it’s not wholly original, but it’s very freakin’ cool and entertaining. I had a blast watching it and I will be on the look out for more projects by director Caradog James and Caity Lotz. Maybe I’ll start watching Green Arrow? The Blu-ray is a simple affairs as it only contains a shot featurette and trailer but more than makes up for that by having reference video and audio. I do believe the price is right and this title should be added to your collection.

 

Order The Machine on Blu-ray!

The Machine - www.whysoblu.com

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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