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Ex Machina (2015)
A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Alex Garland
Written by: Alex Garland
Produced by: A24, DNA Films, Film4
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac.
Original, provocative science fiction is in short supply these days. I can think of only a small few withing the past few years, HER and SNOWPIERCER. EX MACHINA, the directoral debut of 28 DAYS LATER screenwriter Alex Garland has a premise that sounds similar to HER at first. Its about men and the evolution of artificial intelligence, but the execution is to be admired, and underneath its surface it is a deep, layered, film.
Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a chance to work with Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac, in a show stealing turn), who is a genius entrepreneur in the vein of a Steve Jobs. It is revealed that Nathan is working on an AI named Ava (Alicia Vikander) whose humanity he requires Caleb to test. He begins to fall for Ava, and as he begins to fall for her he uncovers just how deep Nathan’s experiment goes.
The acting is generally sublime, if there is a weak link its probably Domhnall Gleeson, if only because he doesn’t get as much to do as Isaac or Vikander. He has the look to fit his character, because you must consider that this is a creepy man. Gleeson fits that bill, as insulting as that sounds, and compliments the picture nicely.
Oscar Isaac is brilliant as Nathan, I’ve loved him for awhile, but this is his best performance to date. He has an eerie charisma to offset several of the films more disturbing reveals of just how he’s experimenting with these AI. He is plausible as a Jobsesque genius, and as a master manipulator. Hopefully, with roles in upcoming STAR WARS and X-MEN films, he’s here to stay.
Alicia Vikander is the performance that ties everyone together though. Her Ava often reminded me of a female equivalent of HAL 9000 from 2001. An emotionless robot who you can’t entirely trust, but feel for regardless. What I like about EX MACHINA is that Ava is definitely the protagonist of this film, although you could not gauge that from the previews.
The strongest factor of EX MACHINA, what I enjoyed the most, were the conversations between Caleb and Nathan. These people, while certainly unlikable, never have a shortage of interesting things to say. These are smart guys, talking about a potential next step in human evolution, regardless of what consequences that may entail.
With EX MACHINA, Alex Garland has hit the ground running. His voice is an exciting one, and I eagerly anticipate his sophomore effort. Probably my favorite film of the year thus far, could not recommend it highly enough.
Suggestion: See it