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How is human intelligence any different than artificial intelligence, given that both are products of an unbelievably complex "programming"—of culture and history for the former, a series of codes for the other. The morality behind A.I. drives The Machine, an ambitious and intriguing sci-fi film that at times seems forced into conventionality.
Toby Stephens stars as a brilliant programmer who works for the military—the old song and dance about an army of super-soldier robots—while seeking to steer the technology toward the rehabilitation of veterans and the mentally challenged. A breakthrough comes when his partner dies, and her mind and likeness are used as the basis for a new machine that could be programmed to either peaceful or destructive ends. There are parallels with any wartime atrocity where soldiers are "programmed" to disregard their own morals in favor of following orders.
This is where The Machine is at its most intriguing, marrying the philosophical musings of Solaris with, unfortunately, the climax of any generic action flick. There's plenty to recommend it, starting with a brilliant and multifaceted performance by Caity Lotz, but when you start by questioning the nature of man, ending with a barrage of gunfire feels like a letdown. Ryan Vlastelica
Screens Saturday. More info here.