Good British sci-fis don’t come along very often, so this stylish slice of a dystopian near-future should be welcomed by fans of the genre. Toby Stephens is Vincent, a morally conflicted computer expert working on a robot weapon for his army boss (Denis Lawson), who wants one up on China in the arms race. Brightening up Vincent’s lab in a gloomy military bunker is clever new recruit Ava (Caity Lotz in ‘Mad Men’), who becomes the blueprint for a new artificial intelligence.
Cue The Machine (also Lotz), a sleek, strong, sexy robot who struggles to come to terms with her humanity (or lack of it). It’s an engaging story that owes a clear debt to the likes of ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Metropolis’, while an electro soundtrack adds to the retro sci-fi air. The characters could use more depth – Vincent’s backstory is told too swiftly, and his bonding with Ava is brief. But it’s still a smart, thought-provoking little thriller with strong central performances, marking second-time director Caradog W James (‘Little White Lies’) as one to watch.