Published on January 30th, 2015 | by Allan Brown2
Ex Machina Review
Movie Review: Ex Machina (2015)
Running Time: 108 mins
Director: Alex Garland
Writers: Alex Garland
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac
As a writer, Alex Garland is perhaps best known for his cinematic collaborations with Oscar winning director Danny Boyle. For not only was his debut novel The Beach a huge success for the director, but so too were the screenplays 28 days Later and Sunshine that he helped shape in the film-makers early career. Now for the first time, Garland extends his talent as an effective wordsmith by stepping out beyond the page and into the formidable director’s chair, becoming chief orchestrator of his own vision, in a smart physiological thriller that poses some fascinating questions on the subject of artificial intelligence.
When Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) – a bright young computer programmer – wins an in-house competition to spend a week with his boss (Oscar Isaac) – a reclusive innovator in computer science – , he soon learns he has been chosen as part of a ground-breaking experiment; testing and evaluating a stunningly advanced artificial intelligence named Ava (Alicia Vikander).
Isolated in the inventor’s mountain sanctuary, Caleb is soon tasked with the job of determining whether Ava is indistinguishable from a human. To achieve this, Caleb performs the Turing Test, an test that he hopes will answer his boss’s burning question on Ava; do robots feel a consciousness, and if it is merely an imitation of consciousness, could we tell the difference?
However, as the young programmers consultations with the A.I intensify over the seven days, Ava’s captivating intelligence, seductive charm and overpowering sense of human fragility soon have him questioning his mentor’s real intentions, as he becomes increasingly lost in a fog of uncertainty.
Characters and their relationships are beautifully intricate, each offering an abundance of physiological complexity to unravel.
Ex Machina is a wonderfully intelligent science fiction drama that poses some thought provoking questions on advanced technology and our ever evolving relationship with it.
Although the films subject may have been covered many times before, Ex Machina is worlds apart from the Hollywood sci-fi and crowd pleaser’s that saturate our multiplexes. Here, Garland’s subtle approach to the subject and his conviction to follow through with every single idea and question he poses, is detrimental to the film’s success and compelling allure. Characters and their relationships are beautifully intricate, each offering an abundance of physiological complexity to unravel.
Oscar Isaac once again turns in a fascinating performance in what has been a landmark few years for the actor. Although here, a world leading innovator in computer science, Ava’s sole creator – Nathan – carts about his secluded sanctuary, spouting clichéd frat-boy Americanisms like ‘dude’ and ‘chill out’, whilst binge drinking and partying (for one) nightly. And while the image of a world leading scientist creates an almost paradox against his college jock lifestyle, it is all part of Garlands playful misdirection.
Domhnall Gleeson also gives another well rounded performance, essentially playing the voice of the audience. Like him, we are caught between two characters, never knowing which way to turn, or whom to trust. But it is Alicia Vikander’s portrayal of Ava that truly steals the show. Garland not only humanises Ava, but also sexualises her, and although we are aware she is a robot, neither male nor female, like Caleb, we to become attracted to her, buying in to her sadness and human fragility. And despite the ever present sense of foreboding and mistrust that lingers in every frame, like Caleb, we too are beguiled by Nathan and Ava as we are guided through to the films explosive conclusion.
Summary: Beautiful, compelling and ominous from the very first frame, Alex Garland's Ex Machina is not only a wonderful contribution to intelligent science fiction drama, but also marks the birth of a bold and exciting new director, bursting with ambitious ideas.