Makes me feel artificially intelligent.
Director: Alex Garland
Runtime: 108 minutes
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, et al…
Plot (taken from IMDb): A young programmer is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breath-taking female A.I.
Ex Machina is an interesting film from first-time director Alex Garland that brings up obvious questions about what is and isn’t real – this is a sci-fi that harkens back to the good old days, but almost feels stuck there.
We start off in a futuristic-looking office, and are told that Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) – an office worker for some kind of internet programming company – is heading off for a secret assignment outside of the urban world. We quickly learn upon his arrival that he is going to be discerning whether an A.I., named Ava (Alicia Vikander) created by Nathan (Oscar Isaac) could pass the “turing test” – or something along those lines, it’s a little more complicated, but more on that later.
It is not too far along when you’ll notice that the film has an uneasy, eerie feel to it – largely thanks to the simple, haunting soundtrack and cold colour scheme. Indeed, the whole operation of the film is filled with tension, built up by everything including the script and acting – everything seems cold when it is trying to be friendly.
This is summed up by the relationship between Caleb and Nathan, whose conversations are quite muted. I do think the script goes into the unnecessary at times (like Nathan’s backstory), but for the most part, it is well thought out, twisting and turning like a twisty-turny thing.
Or at least it tries to. While in no doubt a smart film, come the mid-way point, you can see the ending coming. Some will herald the film for twisting and providing a dark, unpredictable science-fiction story, but if you pay close-enough attention, I think you could pick up on where the film is going (at least for the most part). Despite the slightly predictable ending, there are surprises in the film and I will not spoil anything.
However, while I thought the film’s ending a tad predictable, it is filled with quality. Along with the score is an equally as important aesthetic – everything is made to look cold, but beautiful. The cinematography is stellar and the sets are even better.
But what is better than anything else is the performance of Alicia Vikander as Ava, the A.I. She perfectly nails being “nearly human”. Her movements are more precise, slightly less free-flowing and generally slightly more robotic than her “human” counterparts. But it is her voice that works fantastically well as an A.I. – it needs to be seen to be believed.
However, as stated above, Ex Machina feels a tad old-fashioned, with the setbacks that brings along with it. At times it feels slow – too slow, and the plot, while strong, does get bogged down in its own detail, which makes the film feel longer than it is. The effects are certainly not old-fashioned and some of its details certainly aren’t, but it has that air around it; take that as you will. For me personally, it’s not the kind of film I’d rush out to watch again, but it has moments of quality and strong acting from its leading lady – the tense atmosphere works a charm too.
Ex Machina is a dark film that suffers from perhaps too much detail, and some particularly slow-moving scenes. It is a smart sci-fi however, that does its best to subvert its plot, despite (for me) feeling a tad predictable with its ending. Watch it for its cinematography, effects and Alicia Vikander’s performance.
A solid directorial debut from Alex Garland that suffers from its own intelligence, Ex Machina is a worthwhile watch for Science-fiction fans.