Ex Machina - film review
Dir: Alex Garland
Alex Garland is an accomplished novelist, scriptwriter and with Ex Machina he turns his attention to direction. He did the script too, so let’s assume he’s a bit of a show off. Fortunately he’s done a terrific job with both roles in this film out now.
Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) an IT specialist is overjoyed to win a competition to spend a week at reclusive Nathan Bateman’s compound in a remote US location. Nathan (Osacr Isaacs) is a kind of Bill Gates/Mark Zuckerberg conflation; as the inventor of the world’s leading search engine, Bluebook, he is super-rich and regarded as a genius. Caleb arrives to find Nathan idiosyncratic to say the least. But the week’ prize is also unexpected; Nathan has created an artificial intelligence and it will be Caleb’s job to determine just how human this robot is. Caleb launches into the testing with Ava (Alicia Vikander) and soon realises his task will be complicated by the secrets all involved are keeping.
Well, let me just say it: This is a terrific film that features note perfect performances, skilful direction, wonderful production design and an unintrusive but perfectly poised soundtrack. Even more so, the questions this film raises about the nature of humanity are deftly put. It’s a bit of a cliché in films like this to depict the humans as somehow less human that the machine in question. Blade Runner and various other films have trodden that ground before. Here though, Garland has penned a script that peers beneath that surface to say things about the essence of life itself. This is the best thing about good science fiction. It can have us pondering weighty matters of substance in between mouthfuls of popcorn. His direction manages to introduce a sense that something is off kilter before we know what it is. That sense of something approaching dread permeates the second act of the film before things come to head in the third.
Whilst many films fade from you memory as you leave the theatre, Ex Machina occupies that niche of movies that stay with you and lead to much pondering and great discussions in coffee shops afterwards.
If that has whet your appetite this 8 minute video above tells you more and talks about the way the film explores the relationship between humanity and technology. It also enables you to sample the aesthetic of the film. Interesting!