The stylish and compelling fantasy Ex Machina takes its audience into the labs of a world powerhouse specializing in artificial intelligence. It’s a tantalizing sci-fi drama that works magic with skillful CGI, convincing acting, dark and brooding music, and an imaginative winning script. If you are truly a science fiction fan, than this is one film you must see this year.
A young up and coming code wizard Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), who works for the largest internet company in the world, has won an inter-company contest for a chance to work for one week at their special lab in Alaska. He will get the chance to work with C.E.O. Nathan Bateman (Oscar Issac) the best computer programer in the world and it’s an opportunity of a lifetime. After all being in Bateman’s presence, the man who has created a near “living being” has him energized.
At the isolated facility he’s humbled by the amazing computer genius, but more so by Ava (Alicia Vikander), a robot with artificial intelligence. Because of his coding skills Caleb gets asked to perform a Turning Test on the robot to determine if she has the ability to exhibit intelligent behavior indistinguishable from that of a human. Upon meeting the creature he’s enamored by her beauty and responses to questioning. It’s not long however, that he realizes there’s something horribly wrong with his test results.
The film starts with the excitement of Caleb winning a chance of a lifetime, but as it progresses the brooding tone of the music, the ultra-pristine of the lab, and the growing divergence within Nathan’s attitude become clues to a mystifying secret. First time director and well know screenwriter Alex Garland has the opportunity to learn well from being on the sets of films he wrote like sci-fi thriller 28 Days Later, space adventure Sunshine, subject of cloning Never Let Me Go and futuristic Dred. He helms this menacing drama with impeccable capability delivering a film that’s brilliantly scripted and produced. Never wavering from the task of keeping his audience obsessed with each scene, he guides his actors, cameras and final editing to a terrific finale.
The superb acting mostly by the three person cast of Gleeson, Issac and Vikander insures winning entertainment. Gleeson, most known for his acting in About Time and Unbroken, turns a naïve coder into a suspicious examiner. Calm, cool and collected as Caleb he’s the perfect nerd who can code a program faster than most everyone in the company. Being the catalyst brought in by Nathan he can’t wait to get to work. When he realizes that there’s something suspicious about Ava, he’s already in a trap he cannot escape.
Veteran actor Oscar Issac (Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year) takes the heavy role, creating a genius who has invented the most perfect robot with artificial intelligence. Being alone in the isolated lab so long with only his work and computer his Nathan has become recluse. His only goal centers on constantly improving his robot beyond what anyone has accomplished in the past. He won’t settle for anything less than perfect undetectable intelligence ‘completely human’. He studies Caleb wondering if he can really deliver the answer he wants from the Turning Test without becoming love-struck with his beautiful creation.
As for Ava, Vikander (Anna Karenina) has nailed the character. She’s android-like, yet able to speak almost normal, have an intelligent conversation, come up with solutions to concepts and even show some emotion. With the help of CGI visually she can only be one thing, a robot. But, Nathan feels that as long as the brain he has created can think and respond like a human without detection, Vikander’s Ava is his prize, the most advanced robot ever.
The costumes, VFX, computer graphics (CGI), prosthetic, motion capture and special effects steal the show making Ava as close to human as possible yet still a machine. Visually she’s still a robot with a human looking face and hands turning the rest of her body into a robot. She’s layered in special skin, has realistic eyes and otherwise moves like a human. Graphics play a bigger part as the film moves along, but to reveal them in this review would only take away the impact of the amazing effects in this creative film.
Ex Machina has been rated R for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence. I am a huge fan of Sci-fi when it directed well, and this movie stands up there with the best.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A very cool sci-fi drama that entertains. (A)
Additional Film Information:
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, Sonoya Mizuno, Claire Selby, Symara Templeman, Gana Bayarsaikhan, Tiffany Pisani, Lina Alminas.
Directed and Written by: Alex Garland
Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama,
MPAA Rating: R for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence
Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min
Release Date: April 17, 2015
Distributed by: Universal Pictures