Ex Machina is the directorial debut of the sensational writer Alex Garland, who was responsible for penning such incredible films as 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Never Let Me Go. Set in the not too distant future, Ex Machina follows Caleb, a computer programmer at a very successful search engine company. Caleb wins a trip to go to the isolated resort of his friendly but mysterious boss, Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac. While there, Caleb becomes encased in mystery, romance, secrecy and deception as he is chosen to test out the world's first human-like AI, Ava, played by Alicia Vikander.
As you might tell from the synopsis and Alex Garland’s previous work, Ex Machina is heavily saturated in science fiction. This comes across extremely well in the film as the script includes many excellent scenes of dialogue surrounding artificial intelligence. The film revolves around the theme of artificial intelligence and offers an answer about whether or not the world is ready and I think this is one of the film’s strongest aspect. Garland is obviously fascinated by AI and our progression towards what is being called an inevitability and the film comes across as scarily authentic and it truly makes you think. But what sets it apart from other sci-fi films and makes this film truly special?
Oscar Isaac, who plays Nathan, was beyond incredible; he is no doubt my favourite thing about the film. You wouldn’t believe this but I laughed several times during the film because of how funny he was. His character was an incredible part of the film and Isaac handled the tonal shifts excellently. One minute the film is quite playful, the next, it is very ominous and foreboding. Isaac handled the nuances like a professional and has become one of 2015’s most memorable parts, that’s for sure. It’s also worth mentioning that we now have a worthy contender for Best Dance Sequence of 2015 – I’m not sure what could possibly compete with this masterpiece of a scene.
Finally, Alicia Vikander who plays the AI, Ava, was very good. As ridiculous as it sounds, she was believable. Not only did she look the part thanks to excellent special effects, but she acted very well. Her mannerisms were very appropriate and her idiolect was very robotic in a great way. She handled all the different twists and turns extremely well. Along with the realistic and intelligent discussions of technology, the film’s script was full of actual things people say. Isaac’s character was very sarcastic in a normal sense. I haven’t seen such normal responses in a long time. I think the acting was certainly a very strong part of the film; this is not up for debate at all in my opinion.
Talking about this movie without spoilers is extremely hard; I have been tiptoeing on the wire this whole time and I am worried that I am giving the game away but I guess that is a strength to the film. It’s unpredictable and impressive. I did not see the ending coming and it was one that satisfied me beyond belief. I love to see movies that have guts. I respect Garland a lot for his choices and especially how the film ends. It certainly won’t satisfy all audience members but I will be appreciating it for a long time to come. Some films need to end like this. It restores my faith in storytelling and how the film industry is still bursting with creativity, originality and independence.
Independence is an important part of the film; it feels like it was pioneered by Garland. His hard hitting and focused writing in Danny Boyle sci-fi movies really comes into play here. This is not studio made in the slightest. It is one man’s unfiltered and interesting vision on the creation of the first AI. Normally, big budget studio films lack identity and the feel of a filmmaker instead of a brand. Ex Machina is made into its own because of what Garland did and that is what makes it a success. Therefore, it is a film that most people won’t be expecting and will therefore be caught off guard by. The story progresses really well and it doesn’t waste any time at all. I liked all the different plot points and believe it to be structured very well.
What lets Ex Machina down for me is the disjointed tonal shifts. The film goes from friendly banter to sinister totalitarianism. It is very out of the blue and almost laughable. I think the film could have done with an extra half an hour in order to actually develop the characters better.
I mentioned earlier that the film does waste any time and this is both a good thing and a bad one. The pace is excellent but the film feels rushed. It doesn’t give you much of a breather in order to develop the relationships in the film. People get too quickly attached and conclusions are jumped to much too quickly. This leads to those silly decisions I mentioned early. I’m walking on eggshells here but I believe that the film could have done with some more dialogue scenes of exposition and emotional development instead of thought provoking ideas.
Would I recommend you go see Ex Machina? If you like sci-fi and want to take a journey into Alex Garland’s directorial debut, I say go for it. If you can ignore the lack of character development in return for a sci-fi film that may leave you truly questioning things such as Artificial Intelligence, Ex Machina is for you.
+ Thought provoking
+ Solid script
+ Superb acting
- Too short
- Characters are annoyingly foolish
- Lacked emotional development