I’ve heard nothing but raves for Ex Machina since the beginning of the year. It was released in England to rave reviews, and was the talk around Austin during this year’s SXSW Film Festival. I wasn’t able to catch the film when it premiered here in America, but I’ve been looking forward to its theatrical release ever since. The film has slowly been expanding across America, so I decided to take what is already a beautiful Sunday afternoon to go see the film. Many are calling Ex Machina one of the great science fiction films of our time, so there’s already some high hopes there. Here’s the review.
The film primarily takes place in one location the entire time, in the mountains of Nathan Bateman’s home, whose played by Oscar Isaac. Nathan invites a young programmer who works for his company, played by Domhnall Gleeson, to live at his house for a week and be apart of a fascinating experiment. Nathan has been able to develop Artificial Intelligence, and he’s using Gleeson’s character Caleb as the bait in his experiment. For a week Caleb interacts with Ava, a robot who has the features of a walking/talking woman (Alicia Vikander plays Ava). As the two interact with each other, Caleb begins to grow feelings for the robot, and his eyes begin to open about why he’s really at Nathan’s house.
Alex Garland, the writer behind some of Danny Boyle’s best work (28 Days Later, Sunshine) makes his directorial debut with this film, which he also wrote. For a first time director, Garland’s film almost has a flawless look to the film. The cinematography by Rob Hardy is breath-taking, and an early candidate for the Best Cinematography of 2015. Each frame of this film looks gorgeous, and is some of the best digital cinematography that I’ve ever seen (it rivals the work of Jeff Cronenweth in David Fincher’s films). It’s also a very well written, acted, directed, and everything in-between. Ex Machina is easily the best scripted feature that I’ve seen in 2015 so far, and I highly recommend that you go and check it out before the onslaught of summer movies kick off in a few days.
Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac (both of whom will be appearing in Star Wars: The Force Awakens this Christmas) are both terrific in their respected roles, with the standout of the two being Isaac. The young actor has been compared by many to be the Al Pacino of his generation, and Isaac flexes his acting abilities by playing the excentric and often very funny and charismatic mad (?) genius of the film. Gleeson is perfect as the scrawny and confused Caleb, who plays the straight man of sorts in this world of artificial intelligence. The actress who plays Ava, Alicia Vikander, is also terrific as the innocent and curious robot that is the core of this film.
I also admire Garland for putting more emphasis on the ideas behind the science fiction rather than emphasis being on the special effects. It’s rare to get an old school science fiction film like this one nowadays, and even rarer for the film to be this good. Ex Machina is a really fascinating and entertaining science fiction film that could also be seen as a commentary on the very idea of artificial intelligence, and what they think aside from what we think of them. If the film is showing in your area, I highly recommend that you go out and try to seek it, because I’d bet on this film being a helluva lot smarter than the endless amount of summer junk that we’re about to get in just a few days (although I’m very much looking forward to Avengers: Age of Ultron this Friday night). It’s rare for a mainstream science fiction film to put this much emphasis on ideas and story these days, so don’t miss out on Ex Machina.