Ex Machina

ex-machina-poster

Release: Friday, April 10, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Alex Garland 

Directed by: Alex Garland

In 21st Century filmmaking creating an original sci fi film is arguably a greater challenge than coming up with a respectable romantic comedy. Okay, so maybe it’s not quite that difficult.

Somewhere out there lies a subterranean network of rooms packed to the ceiling with film reels suggesting how mankind will one day become second to machine. Alex Garland (heretofore the screenwriter of such gems as 28 Days Later and Sunshine) is in a lab tucked away deep in this unspecified facility, much like one of his characters in Ex Machina, putting to sleep the notion that humans have wreaked havoc upon themselves and maybe even deserve the downfall. The introduction of a very beautiful female A.I. named Ava (who is this Alicia Vikander again?) heralds the arrival of another profound possibility.

Ex Machina, in all its unfettered visual sexiness, suggests our giving birth to A.I. isn’t something we’ve forced, it’s the next Darwinian step, thus it isn’t exactly our fault. It’s our problem, but it isn’t our fault. We’ve been victims of our own curiosity in most of those films locked away in those rooms, but not quite like this.

Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) seems to have won a weeklong trip to visit the estate of Bluebook CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), a sprawling territory of natural splendor that magnificently hides Nathan’s research facility. A talented programmer for the company, Caleb finds tension in the very first moments he shares with his host. Nathan, sporting the physical appearance of someone wanting to downplay the technological achievements he’s soon to shower his lone guest in, contradictorily behaves as every bit the prodigy-cum-superiority-complex he’s pretending not to be. Confusing? Yeah, it is a little bit to Caleb as well, as Nathan insists that he’d rather dispense of the employer-employee relationship and just become “two dudes talking about a secret project.”

Nathan has created a highly advanced robot that he has code-named Ava, and would like Caleb to test its intelligence and self-awareness. In so doing, Nathan wants Caleb to tell him how he feels about it rather than giving him a complex scientific analysis on the project. In order to assess Ava properly he uses Caleb as the human component in his version of The Turing Test, an evaluation designed to measure a computer’s level of intelligence and whether or not it equates to that of a human.

Over the course of seven sessions Caleb and Ava “get to know” one another all while being monitored by surveillance cameras. Caleb is stunned by her concept of language and her ability to not only emote but evoke emotions in him as the questions range from simple ‘ice-breakers’ to ones of a much more personal nature. An evolution of emotion over the course of these brief conversations makes it clear that despite Ex Machina‘s breathtaking android that effortlessly steals your attention every second of screen time she has, Garland’s empathies lie more with the human component.

Even Ava is more relatable than many of the more iconic droids we’ve been introduced to in many years. She doesn’t come programmed with the instinct to wipe us out like T-1000 or a Sentinel does. She’s attractive and has sexuality. She’s the product of a man who has extricated himself from the general public. On those grounds alone she’s a being with a staggering complexity about her that makes any analysis about the film surrounding her almost redundant. Like our simian cousins, this sleek robotic frame, punctuated by Vikander’s face and hands, shares many of our traits. Her humanity remains controversial, but it approaches the point where we begin to feel uncomfortable siding with one party or the other.

And therein lies the beauty of Garland’s written contribution to his film. Not only are the human characters worthy of our attention — welcome to another incredible Oscar Isaac performance — but the slow and steady build-up of tension between Ava and her environs makes for thrilling, often disconcerting viewing. It’s no Terminator, but Ex Machina‘s purgatorial trappings and extraordinary performances contribute mightily to a product of uncommonly intelligent design.

oscar-isaac-and-domhnall-gleeson-in-ex-machina

4-5Recommendation: Nothing artificial about this film’s intelligence! For fans of stories that pull you in from minute one and refuse to let go, you’re not likely to do much better than Alex Garland’s sci-fi adventure right now. Provocative and profoundly relatable, Garland has proved himself as not just a great writer but a great filmmaker with a future ahead of him. If you like his previous work, don’t miss this. Strong direction, outstanding acting and gorgeous visuals add to one of the best films of 2015. For all these reasons and a few more, you should see it on the big screen for sure. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 108 mins.

Quoted: “What happens to me if I fail your test?”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

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43 thoughts on “Ex Machina

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  3. Can I just say that I am so happy to see comments remaining open on your blog now? I always felt bad when playing catch up and being unable to comment on older posts that I had missed because the commenting was closed.

    Anyway, you and I see eye to eye on this one. I absolutely LOVED it. It was excellent, fresh, handled the material well and really just kept me engrossed and guessing throughout. Wow. What a watch.

    • I had noticed only a couple weeks ago that I had that option checked on my dashboard, which made me feel silly bc who knows how many great comments I have not been able to see since I’ve had that on haha! #n00b

      As for this movie — hell. Yes. It’s only halfway through the year but Ex Machina has a good chance of remaining in my top three films by years end. It is just such a great movie and a visually gorgeous one. Perfectly cast and a real thought-provoker.

      • You have NO idea! I always wondered why you cut them off hahaha. Now I know it wasn’t intentional. I am so happy that I can catch up without simply just liking, but also giving my two cents!

        I can agree on that. It was INSANE and amazing and wow and yes. Just yes.

    • Yeah for sure Jay. Appreciate the comment and I checked out your post and liked it a lot. Some very good thoughts over there.

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  5. Wow! 8 out of 8! Awesome. Looking forward to this movie very much. Will come back and check out your review after I’ve watched it bro! Thanks!

    • My pleasure Vic. It’s currently sitting up very high on my list of 2015 favorites. 🙂 A tasty treat indeed.

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  7. Pleased as punch you loved this mate. I got a blast out of it too. The acting is superb, especially from Isaac. It asks some pertinent questions and has the stones to follow events to their natural conclusion.

    • Ex Machina is one hell of a ride. I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. And how about that dance sequence too? Such a blast man. 😀

    • Hell yes! Nice!!! Ex Machina is a great little flick, I want to go see it again honestly. But. . .damn. Too many other things out/coming out in the next week.

      Are you going to be seeing Ultron this week? Oh wait — YOU ALREADY HAVE!!! 😦 😦 😦

  8. Great review Tom. Confirms what I have been reading for the last several months. I have been waiting aaaaages to see this, and finally it comes out here on Thursday!!! I’m gonna go see it the opening night! 😀

    • I’m excited for you man, I thought it was quite incredible. It’s definitely worked wonders here in the States, the screening I was at on its opening night here at the indie theater was pretty packed. It was one of their smaller screens but still. There’s a lot of enthusiasm surrounding this and I see why.

      I look forward to your reactions dude

    • It’s definitely an odd experience. Many of the scenes had me on edge. I loved it overall, just such a great combination of visuals and human drama.

  9. Awesome review Tom and glad we’re in agreement here. I so agree that the human relationship is as interesting as the man & machine, which doesn’t always happen in sci-fi. This is truly one of the best of the year so far.

    • Yes, that’s what I tried to hone in on here, the human aspect of a movie about A.I. I thought Garland really did a great job of presenting a stimulating robot as well as creating characters we could empathize with. Obviously there are some we couldn’t, and that’s where I found this film to be really interesting.

  10. I can’t wait to see this!! I didn’t read this review because I like going into movies with as clean a slate as I can but I will come back once I’ve seen it and share my thoughts. It looks great though 🙂

    • I thought it was one of the best things I”ve seen in a theater all year. Hopefully you enjoy yourself as well. Look forward to your take. :).

  11. Hey Tom, glad you enjoyed this. It definitely felt like a fresh sci-fi to me and I enjoyed seeing the three leads together. As you point out ‘welcome to another great Oscar Isaac performance’! I saw this a day after seeing A Most Violent Year and though I wouldn’t go so far as to say “I couldn’t believe it was the same guy” I was still impressed by the difference. He is GOOD! I had a bit of a problem with the ending, ie what happens to Gleeson’s character. I guess it needs to happen but I think you can pick holes in it. I’ll say no more so as not to give away spoilers.

    • Very cool. Seeing Isaac in back-to-back roles would be something special. It’s crazy for me, knowing my intro to him was in Drive. And that performance was solid too. His character here was definitely pretty unsavory but that just added to the range of emotions I felt towards the parties involved with this very special, very believable project. Ex Machina is probably going to end up on my list of Favorites for the next Digibread Awards. 🙂

      • Excellent. It is a very good film. I’m keen to see how Gleeson and Isaac are together in Star Wars, if their characters actually cross paths.

        • I didn’t even know until a couple days ago that either were going to be in that movie. I guess the chances of me seeing it are that much better now. 😉

  12. Artificial Intelligence is such a great topic for sci-fi movies. I enjoyed this. Not quite up to the depth of last year’s Her but it’s very entertaining nonetheless.

    • Good point. I keep forgetting how Her is also about the A.I.s point of view. I loved that film and mostly for Joaquin Phoenix’s character but it certainly was a commentary about the evolution of A.I. And it was definitely a deeper, more personal film.

      In the context of that film, Ex Machina used a more “typical” robot A.I. but it still blurred the line between robot and human and so that for me really overwhelmed. This was a great film. Can’t believe I forgot to mention that dance scene. That part was great!

  13. I watched this yesterday and thought it was great. Alex Garland took full advantage of the setting balancing the exterior and interior worlds. He created an interesting characters throughout. I’m so impressed with Oscar Isaac. He just can do no wrong these days. My only criticism was it seemed to drag in the middle–that is, his audio crescendo blares didn’t quite match the plot progression. I wondered where it was going half way through. It’s my only criticism. It could have been a play, couldn’t it? It was a solid story with a satisfying ending. I loved it. What a great twist on the Frankenstein story.

    • Oh, I love your take on it being a twist on Frankenstein. That’s fascinating!

      There was a little bit of drag around the middle but I was wrapped up in Gleeson and Isaac’s characters so much that that fact only comes to me as an afterthought. I think I know the parts you’re talking about though. 🙂

      This is definitely a surprise hit; I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one as much as I did.

    • I hope you enjoy it man, it’s definitely not the *best* sci-fi ever but man for my money it’s the best there is this year and it’s up there among my favorite films this year. Loved it!

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