Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Morality and deception. Those are the two key words that should be stuck in the back of your head as you make your way through "Ex Machina", the recent sci-fi thriller that has hit audiences worldwide. Critics and fans alike are completely praising the film and calling it one of the best sci-fi movies to hit theaters in a while, and I am about to join the ranks of everyone who has given love to the film.Apr 29 2015
This is the directorial debut by Alex Garland, who has become known for writing the screenplay for films such as "28 Days Later" and "Dredd", who has worked as co-writer on the video game "Enslaved: Odyssey to the West", served as story supervisor for 2013's "Devil May Cry", and has a total of three different novels to his name. If you ask me, he has worked his ass off to be able to direct his first film after all these years, and the results are worth it.
Let's start off with the basic premise; Caleb Smith, a skilled coder, wins a lottery to meet the CEO of his internet search engine company Bluebook named Nathan Bateman. Upon meeting his boss, he is shown Ava, an AI that has human form despite her robotic limbs, and undergoes a Turing Test between the two of them.
And that is where the film skyrockets to greatness. First of all, Nathan Bateman is played by Oscar Isaac, and I absolutely adore his character. He plays a genius, but not your stereotypical brain. He's a dude at heart; he uses the word "fuck" as much as he wants and likes to fuck, he drinks, and likes to dance. While I was half expecting the usual nerdy, scrawny guy who can't grow a spine for his life, Nathan proved to be a hysterical character.
In all the serious drama that goes on within "Ex Machina", Isaac's character also provides comic relief throughout the film through his antics and otherwise chill personality. When interacting with Caleb, who is intellectual and tries speaking in a formal form, Nathan is the voice that pretty much says, "Don't talk to me like a boss. Talk to me like a friend."
And that's where a polar opposite character forms in Domhnall Gleeson's Caleb. Caleb is more or less the smart, brains of the project. I mean, you can't really blame him; being invited to a remote section in the middle of nowhere to meet your CEO and his AI isn't the average, everyday occurrence. And Gleeson shows that off perfectly.
Gleeson's loner personality also shows with his interactions with Ava. He gets easily attached to this AI as he explains a few traumatic occurrences in his past, and it's almost as if this is the only female attention he's received in his life. And that leads me straight into the most important character of the film: Ava herself.
Ava is portrayed wonderfully by Alicia Vikander. The hard thing about playing an AI half the time is that you can't necessarily act human; you need to act robotic which is something that doesn't come naturally. However, Vikander, I think, had a bit of a tougher role while acting as Ava; she couldn't just act as an AI would, because Ava's personality demands that she has understanding of human nature but isn't quite there as of yet.
It's like a half and half effort. Either way, Vikander managed to pull of Ava's character extremely well and beyond expectations. Whether it was through digital effects or her own facial expressions, every twitch in Ava's face was pulled off wonderfully and every time her eyes were on screen, I just could not look away from it.
There was a fourth character, one named Kyoko played by Sonoya Mizuno. She was a quiet character, never having a single line in the whole film, but her gaze gave away all her thoughts throughout the film. To really go into more detail on Kyoko would spoil certain bits of the movie, so I'll stay quiet on that matter.
What the film also does really, really well is put out personal statements through seemingly innocent dialogue. A once over will make you think that it's just standard chit chat regarding Ava between Nathan and Caleb and Ava or any of the three combined, but a twice over might make you think on it all the more. Anything from sexual orientation and choice to big companies monitoring people's private lives and everything else in between is explored; I am more than sure I missed a few points made in the film and will need to see it three or more times to fully absorb it all.
Another premise highly explored in the film, as stated in the beginning, is deception. Throughout the film, the only character whose intentions you know one hundred percent are Caleb's. The rest of the three, however, are questionable. You might find yourself sitting in your seat asking, 'Does Nathan have a hidden agenda? What's his real goal? Why is Ava so willing to do all this if she's a computer? What does she want to do? What's her plan? And what's with Kyoko? Why so quiet? Why is this recluse of a CEO keeping her around?' All that and more will be answered by the end of the film.
I do believe that one of the most satisfying elements of this film comes from the fact that it wraps itself up very, very nicely. I don't think I've felt so satisfied with an ending to a movie in...God knows how long. It's both uplifting, saddening, and also frightening in a matter.
The musical score was done by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury. There are a few moments when the music is absolutely enlightening, especially at the end of the film. But, it wasn't the most powerful soundtrack I've heard in a while; it did its job as background music, and did a job well done.
By the time the movie is over and the credits roll, your head will still be flitting with thoughts and ideas, possibly even new questions that will make you think twice before you whip out your cell phone again. It is a bold and brainy film that anyone can get into, and its hour and fifty minute run time will feel like a breeze with you wondering where time has went.
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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