While you may be very familiar with the films that he has written, Alex Garland is mostly an unknown celebrity name. He was born in London, England and received a Bachelor’s degree in Art History from the University of Manchester. He wrote the novel The Beach which was later adapted into the film of the same name by director Danny Boyle. In addition, he wrote screenplays for such films as: 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Dredd. Now Garland has decided to add another skill to his résumé by directing his first feature film entitled Ex Machina.
In the not-too-distant future a computer programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) has been randomly selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment. Nathan (Oscar Isaac) is Caleb’s incredibly wealthy boss who has invited him to a high-tech mansion located in a remote forest area. Nathan may have created the world’s very first true artificial intelligence which is located inside of a female robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander) . His goal is to have Caleb interact with Ava for a week and for Caleb to decide if she truly is a real artificial intelligence at the end.
While most films that involve artificial intelligence tend to gloss over many key aspects (creation of life, sexuality, etc.) Ex Machina instead embraces them. This is a brilliant film with a multi-layered story that is able to weave together facets of philology, computer science, creationism, and a bit of humor into an easily digestible package. Never once did I feel talked down to but instead I felt very welcomed into learning more about how artificial intelligence is created and maintained. In addition, the film never feels preachy on the theme but instead tries to cover several different points of view in order for the viewer to come to their own conclusions on the subject matter.
Even though the cast is very small, the performances are incredibly vast and memorable. Gleeson perfectly personifies a geeky, young tech enthusiast who isn’t a mere stereotype. Although he spouts out dialogue that shows off his intelligence, it never comes across as snooty or pretentious. He is a very personable character and Gleeson helps demonstrate that with a childlike whimsy throughout the film. Isaac on the other hand plays a very brooding yet intelligent man. He has all the answers yet he constantly needs to be acknowledged for all of his vast achievements. Also, he plays in the realm of being likable due to his constant comedic quips yet his disguised persona helps him to stay in the territory of being very mysterious. On top of all of that, while Gleeson and Isaac do a phenomenal job, Vikander’s performance completely steals the film. She magically transforms into the role with such substance that for the majority of the film I forgot that she was an actual human. From her slight robotic movements to her engrossing thirst for information, she perfectly embodies what I believe a real A.I. robot would and should act like in real life.
Looking back at the film as a whole, there really aren’t any glaring negatives that bring down the film. My only tiny and nearly insignificant complaint would be that the last couple of minutes are unnecessary and could easily be edited out. Nonetheless, if you are looking for a smart yet approachable film that covers the complexities of artificial intelligence in a meaningful and interesting way then Ex Machina should not be missed.
Ex Machina:[usr 5]
About Ex Machina
Synopsis: A young computer programmer is randomly chosen to partake in a groundbreaking experiment involving artificial intelligence.
Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Stars: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, Sonoya Mizuno
Runtime: 108 min
Releases: April 24, 2015