Ex Machina Movie Review
A gifted computer programmer with a bit of an awkward and sometimes timid approach, named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), is chosen within his company to spend a week at the boss’s secluded, highly secretive estate. Caleb is dropped off by helicopter to an unknown location on a forest covered mountain and told to walk toward a certain direction. Architecturally blended within its environment, the building is on automated lockdown to maintain secrecy. While technically beautiful, rooms are created for function and individually locked based on clearance level for one’s key. Nathan (Oscar Isaac) might be Caleb’s genius boss, but he is also an arrogant drunk with odd mood swings. The reason for all of Nathan’s secrecy is because he has created the first artificial intelligence being, a stunning female A.I. known as Ava (Alicia Vikander). Nathan has chosen Caleb to perform a Turing test, which is to evaluate a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from that of a human. What follows is a fascinating and riveting journey of conversations and visual pleasures exploring poignant thematic issues involving, physicality, sexuality, mentality, and divinity, in EX MACHINA.
This is the first directing effort from Alex Garland, who has written several screenplays, my favorites being 28 DAYS LATER, DREDD and now EX MACHINA. Garland establishes the boundaries within the walls with incredible discipline. The audience feels as claustrophobic as the characters with brief glimpses of the beautiful nature surrounding the habitat. Like a caged animal, we begin to identify with Ava, as does Caleb, with an overwhelming feeling to get outside.
In fact, the way everything is visually shot in the picture, takes on a greater meaning. Although Ava is mechanically covered, there is an uncomfortable voyeuristic sensation when she removes human clothing and then once again when applying a texture of human looking skin. While nudity is in play, it has a very lifeless affect that diminishes the sexuality. The whole experience is very strange with fascinating results. The implications of nature vs. nurture, creation vs. evolution and man vs. woman are done purposefully and thoughtfully.
The production design and special effects are absolutely incredible, giving a simple modern day advancement that makes everything feel as though it is in a current day status with an unknown futuristic technology. But the real wow factor comes with the makeup of Ava, combining human structure with mechanical elements. Of course, all the magnificent technical achievements are lost without great character development and performances from the three actors. With a natural chemistry and ability, Domhnall Gleeson (ABOUT TIME, UNBROKEN) and Oscar Isaac (INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR) are a couple of our finest actors who are just now becoming recognizable names. Giving the perfect combination of human warmth with machine coldness, Alicia Vikander (SEVENTH SON, SON OF A GUN) will surely become a sought-after commodity following her fully convincing performance as Ava.
EX MACHINA is an incredibly engaging, subtly thought-provoking science fiction film that comes with my highest recommendation. The masterfully story telling and artistic visual significations are an experience that will stick with the viewer in an unforgettable film.