Ex Machina, 2015.
Written and Directed by Alex Garland.
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander and Sonoya Mizuno.
A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.
Desire, lust, and love are undoubtedly some of the strongest emotions that humans come equipped with, but can artificial intelligence become so sentient that it can experience those feelings too? Ex Machina (the directorial debut from Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later and Sunshine) asks this and many more bold questions that raise so many provocative thoughts about the society we live in today, that it is hard not to call this one of the most intelligent and thought-provoking sci-fi thrillers of the current generation. You could probably go one step further and argue that it is one of the most original films ever made.
It all starts with the performances from the three leads involved (Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson, and Alicia Vikander) that instill an almost haunting presence to the narrative. To give away too much of the plot would be of a disservice to the viewer, so I’ll just say that Isaac is absolutely menacing and weirdly psychotic as the genius creator of the android played by Vikander, whom also delivers a remarkable performance filled with so many little new nuances and tics in her facial expressions and overall body movements. These two steal the show in a game of testing the audience to see if they can figure out just who is spewing lies and manipulating Gleeson.
Of course, as equally important to keeping up that suspense is the slow build pace that the movie goes for and never ditches. Ex Machina constantly feels as if the plot is going to explode, but even when it does things stay relatively subdued and grounded in reality which feels uncommon for the sci-fi genre, but something that should be deeply appreciated here. This isn’t The Terminator, it’s an intelligent look at the pros and cons, risks and rewards of printing artificial intelligence into our world. In addition to that, it is certainly one of the strangest and unnerving romantic tales to ever grace a film, and once again in a human way despite the obvious sci-fi elements.
The dialogue is rich in riveting conversation that seemingly has viewers asking themselves questions throughout each and every scene. Without going into too much detail there is a running theme where Isaac just wants simple answers to his questions instead of a textbook analytical approach, and it makes for some genuinely intriguing discussion on DNA and why we function the way we do. In turn, it’s also played up to fit in with artificial intelligence becoming human per se.
The production design and set is also fascinating and created with a rich sense of wonder. Not only is it cool that there is this huge mansion seemingly in the middle of nature, but the overwhelming amount of white filling the hallways juxtaposed with blue LED lights going off when card keys are slotted into holes all feed into this idea that while this movie is fantasy, nothing is outlandishly far-fetched. As a matter of fact, the reality to it along with the intriguing drama centered around emotion is what really separates Ex Machina from its counterparts. There are also some gorgeous nature shots spliced in as the movie shifts from day-to-day.
As if this movie wasn’t already amazing, even the original soundtrack is full of harrowing synthetic beats hammering home into your brain that you should trust none of what you are seeing, and that Ex Machina is a master class at deception. Keeping in line with the overall tone of the film, the music never gets overbearingly loud to the point where it takes over the experience; instead it is restrained and very low-key, adding another layer of eeriness to the atmosphere.
Ex Machina is destined to become a cult classic. Whereas many sci-fi gems tend to focus on special effects and an extravagant scope in storytelling, writer and first-time director Alex Garland takes the dialed back approach to whip up something unforgettably unique that can stand apart from just about everything in its genre. Even though there are multiple plot twists that add a great degree of excitement to the film, at the end of the day you will be left contemplating the ideas and motifs that the film brings up, and it’s very horrifying yet surreal ending.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook