A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Alex Garland
Produced By: Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich
Written By: Alex Garland
Starring: Domnhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander
Running Time: 1o8 Minutes
A smaller but deeply anticipated picture for 2015, Alex Garland’s directorial debut Ex Machina (derived from the Latin translation “deus ex machina” of the Greek “theos ek mēkhanēs” which means “God from the machinery”) is a contemporary sci-fi thriller spotlighting mans curiosity and experience with artificial intelligence and the gargantuan impact such technology has on our world.
Yes, it’s been done to death; it’s to be expected given the age in which we’re living. However, Ex Machina may not be just one of the best films of 2015, it may be the best example of the popular A.I. sub-genre.
Focused around computer programmer protagonist, Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson), Ex Machina tells revolves around The Turing Test. Brought to the big screen in last year’s The Imitation Game which tells the story of Turing himself, Ex Machina asks the crucial questions about our perception of artificial intelligence as a believably conscious entity.
Caleb is notified that he has won the chance to travel to a remote location via helicopter to meet with his boss Nathan (Oscar Isaac), who has something very special to share. He informs Caleb that he has been working on an A.I for quite some time and invites him to become part of his research.
He requires Caleb to interact with ‘Ava’ (Alicia Vikander), the said A.I and see after a week has transpired, whether he truly believes he is interacting with a computer or not. Over the course of the week, Caleb learns so much about so many things and begins to become growingly curious of his enigmatic and unpredictable employer. Nothing is as it seems…
As previously mentioned, Ex Machina is one of the best films to emerge from 2015 so far. It hasn’t necessarily re-invented the sci-fi genre, but it has certainly set a new benchmark for films dealing with the ever-growing and ominous subject matter of artificial intelligence.
It says a lot about humanity and our reliance on technology, as well as the ways we exploit, abuse and take it all for granted. There is an overriding theme that is explored within the film, and it is summed up within of the film’s tailgates which reads; “To erase the line between man and machine is to obscure the line between men and gods”; a perfect thematic and tonal description of the film.
The cast is substantially small, and this is one of the best qualities of the film. Having just witnessed Avengers: Age of Ultron in the same month and the gargantuan cast that occupied the screen, it’s refreshing to see a minuscule set of throughly explored characters over the period of one week who are refined to a singular location for 108 minutes.
It’s interesting to draw comparisons between the two films as their both films dealing with the threat and risk of artificial intelligence. Seeing them within a week of one another proved to be more of a blessing than a curse in that it demonstrates the similar level of unknown and fear surrounding the issue but from two different sides of the scale spectrum.
Performances are top notch, which is to be expected with the likes of Domnhall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac at the helm. Alicia Vikander has the hardest role in many ways playing Ava. She is human (of course) but the role requires her to play a robot that is human-like, not the other way round which we’ve seen so many times before. Her subtle and nuanced performance was really impressive and has definitely set her off on the right foot for future projects.
The dynamic and brooding sense of tension exhibited within the performances of Isaac and Gleeson (in one of two meetings in 2015) is magical.
There are so many factors to consider when thinking about what makes these two characters so investible. Contrasting height, hair colour, location, personal interests and secrets, as well as several other components that are essential for great character building, and Garland doesn’t hold back.
It’s not just the characters and performances that make Ex Machina so great. This is one of the most intelligently written screenplays to watch unfold in quite some time. There have been countless examples of films that try to take a topical, realistic and smart approach to artificial intelligence and have fallen short due to being off more than they could chew.
Ex Machina tackles the topic and approaches it from a well researched, thought provoking, fleshed out perspective and it proves to be a huge success. The audience is never lost when the technological jargon emerges; rather, you’re sucked in to the perfectly understandable dialogue exchanges between Isaac and Gleeson without ever getting confused.
Topics such as advancement, art, intellect, imagination, science, experimentation, perception, image and history come to play and they all have significant impact on where the story goes.
Ex Machina explores artificial intelligence in a sophisticated way, the performances are sublime, the cinematography has to be seen to be believed, the screenplay is one of the best of its kind and the overall premise is superb.
Lastly, stay around for the initial credits. There isn’t a Marvel-style mid-credits sting, it’s the hypnotic visuals that will cap it all off for you, that’s a promise.