The Machine: Big Ideas On A Small Budget

Olly MacNamee writes for Bleeding Cool:

I think it's safe to say we live in a modern world where technology is often at the heart of a lot of what we mundanely do every day. Heck, you're reading this on some sort of IT device so there you go. Whether it's starting up our computer riddled cars to tablets on the go and computer monitors staring back at us in our workplace before settling down for a nice read on our Kindle at the end of the day, we are surrounded by technology and we can never go back.

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Multi-award winning British sci-fi thriller (well, Welsh, really) The Machine takes this modern reality to another level with a storyline centered on the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a way of treating wounded soldiers and the inevitable conflict such technology developed by the Military can create. Vincent (Toby Stephens), the lead scientist on the AI project, has just created the perfect fighting machine in Ava, but when he tries to appropriate this technology to save the life of his own daughter he comes up against his boss, Thomson (Denis Lawson), who wants the technology for more Machiavellian purposes. Will Ava develop a conscience or become the ultimate fighting machine she was created to be? You can watch the trailer here right now.

Writer and director and undoubtedly a talent to keep an eye on, Caradog James, and the equally talented producer, John Giwa-Amu, sat down with me to talk about the film and the year-long research they undertook to make a movie that, while set in the not-too-far-future, was based as much as possible on the science behind AI rather than the fiction.

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"Scientist in this particular field have previously mapped the brain of a slug. Now, they are in the process of mapping the brain of a chimpanzee. It isn't hard to imagine that the next step is in mapping a human brain. Within 50 years"' explains James, commenting on one of the central characters in the film, Ava, played by Caity Lotz (Black Canary in 'Arrow'), herself the eponymous AI. Indeed, to prepare for the role, it was Lotz's idea to tone her body even further and to look like she was a literal machine. She did many of her own stunts and both James and Giwa-Amu realized how lucky they were to cast her before her star started to shine State side.

They were praising of all their cast, of course, but what surprised me was that the decision to approach Lawson was not because of his part in the original Star Wars trilogy (playing one of the luckiest rebels alive, Wedge Antilles, and surviving all three films), but because of his role in Local Hero, which I was informed, and now checked, has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A great little film from the 80's worth looking out for.

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From just the script, which Giwa-Amu sums up as, "One with a small budget but big ideas," they were lucky enough to gain the talents of Paul Hyett (The Descent) on make-up and did wonders with their limited budget in developing their effects too. As a big fan of Blade Runner and Ridley Scott's directing style, there are no doubt elements of this sci-fi noir syle seeping through the film and I for one can't wait to see what Caradog can do with a meatier budget behind him. Which I am sure is only a matter of time after this.

The Machine is at cinemas now and available on DVD and Blu-Ray this coming Monday, 31st March 2014.

Olly MacNamee teaches English and Media, for his sins, in a school somewhere in Birmingham. Some days, even he doesn't know where it is. Follow him on twitter @ollymacnamee or read about his exploits at olly.macnamee@blogspot.co.uk. Or don't.

About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.

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