Ex Machina Review
Ex Machina Review
Ex Machina is a deep, philosophical and smartly written sci-fi from Alex Garland (writer on 28 Days Later and Sunshine) and marks Garland’s directorial debut. The plot follows Caleb Smith played by Domhnall Gleeson, a programmer working for an internet search giant who wins a competition to spend a week with the company’s reclusive CEO Nathan Bateman, played by Oscar Isaac. However, it is quickly revealed the real reason for Caleb’s presence. He is to take part in a Turing test with Nathan’s latest invention, an artificial intelligence. The film is an interesting and thought-provoking sci-fi and contains some excellent performances.
Ex Machina is set on a remote estate owned by Nathan and because of this is very atmospheric. There are also only really three characters in the film: Caleb, Nathan and Ava who is the A.I. Due to its claustrophobic setting, much of the screen time is devoted to these three characters and their interactions. Ex Machina contains some fantastic performances from Oscar Isaac’s portrayal of Nathan as a reclusive and often unsettling drunkard to Domhnall Gleeson’s performance as Caleb who is smart, curious and intellectual. However, the best performance comes from Alicia Vikander as Ava who instills her with enough humanity but also a not-quite-human trait that works wonderfully for the role. Ava is upon appearance very robotic and this fact is portrayed well in her movements which have a sleekness and unnaturalness about them. Despite the film’s relatively small budget, Garland does well to ensure that Ava looks the part.
The plot revolves around Caleb’s interactions and sessions with Ava as he tries to determine whether Ava is a true A.I or not. These scenes are interspersed with Caleb’s conversations with Nathan which often detour into the philosophical and intellectual. Both characters are clearly smart but Nathan’s remarks are often arrogant which juxtaposes nicely with Caleb’s more wary attitude. There is a friction between the two characters that gives the film a tone of uneasiness which carries over to the audience. Caleb clearly does not feel at home in Nathan’s strange complex/bunker. The film draws on classic sci-fi themes particularly when it comes to A.I but also asks deep questions of its audience about the nature of humanity and creationism. The film feels particularly poignant for our time as artificial intelligence is a hot topic at the moment.
Ex Machina is also deeply atmospheric. Nathan lives in a research facility that is mostly buried underground in a secluded estate away from civilization. This gives the film an eerie quality with almost horror undertones. Caleb is obviously unsettled and uncomfortable in this environment especially as he shares it with Nathan who is pretty volatile and unpredictable and Ava who is not human but displays emotions with ease and believability. The tone of the film also gives it a dream-like quality and Alex Garland deserves credit for making a drama work on a very small scale, an achievement that is aided by the film’s talented cast.
Although the film is smartly written, there are some plot twists there are a little predictable and it doesn’t take much guessing to work out what’s going on. In addition, Ex Machina’s finale is logical but again quite predictable. It’s not that these twists aren’t well done like the rest of the film but aren’t as smart or creative as other scenes. Nevertheless, they don’t detract from your enjoyment of the film too much and overall the film is more concerned with provoking the audience with intriguing questions and ideas rather than telling an amazing story.
In conclusion, Ex Machina is a smart, thrilling sci-fi that is aided by fantastic performances from its three main characters, an atmospheric and eerie setting as well as deep and philosophical ideas for its audience. Its tendency to move into more predictable territories holds it back slightly but should not detract on what is an enjoyable and entertaining film that is certainly one of the better sci-fi films of recent years.
What did you think of the film? Do you agree with my review?