Ex Machina tells the story of a computer code writer, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who wins a competition at work. The prize is a week with the company’s owner and creator, Nathan (Oscar Isaac) at his lush but almost invisible home/research facility. The winner will have a week to take part in the test of a human interacting with an AI robot named, Ava (Alicia Vikander). But who is testing who and what are the end games?
The premise of Ex Machina was written and directed by Alex Garland who has worked most closely with Danny Boyle on The Beach, 28 Days Later and Sunshine. Garland most recently scripted the outstanding new version of Dredd from 2012. That was one of the best films of the year and one my favorites of all time. He has picked up a lot of good habits from working with Boyle and it shows with the masterful Ex Machina. This is a truly great film.
Domhnall Gleeson is Caleb, an intelligent code writer for Nathan’s company, but he is a loner. No girlfriend or many friends to speak of. His short life has been computers. Nathan Bateman has created a robot using AI (Artificial Intelligence) and named her Ava. Ava is played by the wonderful Swedish actress, Alicia Vikander and what a revelation she is. The test between human and robot begins, but things are not adding up. Is Nathan not to be trusted? Is Ava not what she seems to be? Caleb is like a rat in a maze with not many places to turn to. Isolated and seemingly cut off from the outside world, he has little choice but to continue the testing.
This is a sci-fi film but it is not an action film. To have a bunch of action after the setup of the premise, would be a fatal mistake. Ex Machina is a smart, cerebral film. Superbly written about emotionally inexperienced people who are grappling with unfelt emotions for the first time. Their reaction is intriguing and interesting as is the dialogue that Garland has written for them. These are smart people in the world of computers and philosophy and their discussions are engaging. I was interested in every word of what they had to say and the performances by Gleeson, Isaac and Vikander are Oscar worthy. Alex Garland has created a beautifully dangerous world in Bateman’s underground home where the battle of wits and intentions of each of the characters is never fully revealed until the last couple of shots of the film which are shocking, to say the least.
Ex Machina is an intelligent and sleek film. it takes its time and simply lets the characters interact in a realistic fashion. Nothing is forced or contrived and when the characters act we believe their actions. The script is sharp and focused and Garland keeps the film’s pace steady and always entertaining. He challenges the viewers to think for themselves, which is almost unheard of in today’s films and the film’s score composed by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrows compliments the film without overwhelming it. These two gentlemen had composed some score music for Garland’s script for Dredd, but it was unused. However, all of these scores are available for purchase and are highly recommended.
There are more action filled sci-fi films out there to watch, but rarely has one resisted the action for a dialogue driven film on such a grand scale as Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. This is a special film and one that can be viewed numerous times and still be as fresh as the first time. Hopefully, this will be around at Oscar time. Yes, it is that good.
Ex Machina – Rated R for language and nudity
Ex Machina – Run Time is 108 minutes
Ex Machina Movie Review (DVD and On Demand) written and reviewed by JohnnyTwoToes of the Movie Slackers.