Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is one of Blue Book’s, a behemoth search engine company, best programmers and he’s just won an invitation to spend a week with the company’s creator, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Caleb will be spending a week in Nathan’s remote house, away from all of life’s distractions. Upon arriving, Nathan tells Caleb that the house is actually a research facility and that he’s been working on a product which he wants Caleb to test. The product is Ava (Alicia Vikander) and Nathan wants Caleb to test her Artificial Intelligence.
Ex Machina is leading a science fiction resurgence with what will be looked upon as a masterpiece film about Artificial Intelligence, how we view consciousness, and the susceptible nature of man and machine. Films have tackled the subject of A.I. before and have always viewed them from a human lens. Here, we’re asked to observe from all sides of the discussion and even engage with it, as we find ourselves unsure of what to believe. We’re also asked to feel and welcome the A.I., rather than observe it for its differences. What you have with Ex Machina is a science fiction film which will redefine the genre and have audiences leaving with an altered sense of reality.
Writer/Director Alex Garland has been a major force in science fiction with his screenplays for 28 Days Later and Sunshine and the fact that those films also made huge waves in the realm of Sci-Fi. Ex Machina feels grounded in reality and the science behind the A.I. and the jargon that the leads spout is all sound. The progression of the story is perfect, with each beat revealing a bit more and bringing the audience closer in. Garland’s script is brilliant, effortlessly creating internal dialogue as you watch the film and leaving you to think about how you would actually respond to an A.I., if you could tell it was one in the first place. The discussion that took place in the large audience was unreal and had everyone giddily discussing their own thoughts and theories. To me, that is a result of outstanding Sci-Fi.
Oscar Isaac leads this cast with another astounding performance which borders between genius and madness. Issac’s character is already a God to the world and his obsession with creating A.I. only sees him getting further away from humanity. His isolation has had a clear effect on him, leaving him practically an alcoholic and unsociable. His interactions with Gleeson prove upsetting and obnoxious, but Isaac lights up as soon as he hears about how amazing his invention is. He’s clearly not telling the truth and Isaac’s ability to incite fear in Gleeson and the audience will really leave you dumbfounded.
Domhnall Gleeson has been a very likable actor and is one who can fit himself into any odd role. He ramps up his intellect for Ex Machina, describing the Turing test and going into explanations as to how Ava might work. He’s not too outgoing, but the intricacies Gleeson brings with his subtle facial expressions and longing gaze really emphasize how this character sees the world. He’s both impressed and taken aback by Ava and their interactions prove to be somewhat reminiscent of two people beginning to fall for one another. Gleeson’s concerns mirror the audiences and watching his paranoia set in really makes for a disturbingly good time.
Alicia Vikander undoubtedly gives the best performance in a role that will be continually looked upon as years pass. Her Ava is filled with so much wonder and desperation and the consciousness that she develops is something we haven’t seen before. The CGI is incredible and her motion capture performance is seamless. Vikander displays some traits that are uniquely robotic, but a look into her mind and her aspirations will have you believing she’s as real as anyone. The fear and the arousal that she feels when surrounded by Isaac and Gleeson only secures your interest in her character and continues to blur the line between humanity and artificial intelligence. The ideas of test being performed and deciphering who is the real subject all hinges on Vikander’s exceptional delivery of the dialogue and her ability to read the room.
Ex Machina is almost unsettling with the amount of reality that it packs in to a film about science fiction. It’s rare that we get to see a film from both the human and A.I. point-of-view and this film plays so well because of that constant switch-up. Alex Garland’s understanding of the genre and exploration of consciousness, be it human or A.I., makes for such an enthralling time at the movies. Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson both provide very different, yet very terrific performances as observes of the technology, while Vikander soars as the A.I. we grow to love a bit too much. You brain won’t be able to quit until you’ve spent a sufficient amount of time dissecting this genius film and then you’ll just think about how beautifully shot everything is as well. Add in one of the most unsettling soundtracks of late and Ex Machina is easily the first great film of 2015.
Ex Machina Trailer