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Ex Machina is Eerie, Unforgettable Sci-Fi (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | July 24, 2015 | 2 Comments

Ex Machina (2015)

Ex Machina is a science-fiction film but it is notably distinct from other recent entries in the genre. It’s propelled by slow-burning suspense, rather than big and bustling action sequences. It’s unafraid to pose questions about the ethics of artificial intelligence and what constitutes human nature. And, surprisingly, it involves science. More surprisingly, it makes that science consistently gripping.

Directed by first-timer Alex Garland, this is a rare combination of daring independent filmmaking and subtly stunning special-effects. The plot is straightforward. Caleb, a nerdy twenty-six year-old coder, wins a contest at the colossal search engine he works for. The prize is a one-week stay at the gorgeous estate of his reclusive CEO, Nathan. Caleb is initially perplexed by his boss’ solitary lifestyle. He’s shocked when he learns he will be one half of an unprecedented experiment. Nathan has created Ava, a startlingly sophisticated female robot. Caleb is there to asses her humanity. At first, he is astonished by the uncanny realism of Ava, and the technical brilliance of the creation. Slowly, he develops more human feelings for her, specifically love. He begins to question everything: is Nathan on his side? Are Ava’s emotions her own? What constitutes humanity, and can a robot have a real relationship with a person?

Ex Machina (2015)Ex Machina is slow and eerie, dropping clues and building suspense until everything unravels in the absorbing final twenty minutes. The film’s single setting and the limited cast bring to mind a stage performance. Like a play, the film’s themes and ideas work largely because of the distinct performances. As Caleb, Domhnall Gleeson is a nervous and nerdy everyman, amiable and appealing despite sparse background information. Buff and bearded, Oscar Isaac is cold and imposing as Nathan. Isaac nails all the layers of a very sophisticated character. And Alicia Vikander, as Ava, manages to be simultaneously innately robotic and deeply human.

Alex Garland wrote the film’s script without intending to direct, but we should be thankful he was got the chance to helm. The condensed but complex storyline, thoughtful characters, and neat narrative twists are all the hallmarks of an immensely skilled director. The film is as sleekly stunning, consistently clever, and surprisingly self-aware as Ava herself. Technically, the movie is also a marvel. All the robotic technology looks effortlessly real but not too familiar. Rob Hardy’s cinematography provides a jolting sense of immediacy to the story. And the music, by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, is the perfect compliment to the surrounding dread.

Ex Machina (2015)Ex Machina concludes with a cold, dark, cynical conclusion that will keep you thinking for days. It doesn’t stretch on and on, but instead leaves lots of images and ideas left in your brain.

 

Comments

2 Responses to “Ex Machina is Eerie, Unforgettable Sci-Fi (Flack’s Review)”

  1. Papa
    July 25th, 2015 @ 6:37 am

    Great review. I agree with everything you say and good job in not revealing the very interesting ending. The film certainly poses some interesting thoughts on Artificial Intelligence.

  2. Hildy ITKIN
    July 27th, 2015 @ 10:10 am

    We saw the movie before your review and I will say that I appreciated the movie for all the reasons you so aptly illustrated in your review. Brilliant and informative writing. Cheers.

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