How to sum up Ex Machina: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” The 2015 Oscar winner for best visual effects takes another look into artificial intelligence and its consequences. How does it fare compared to other AI movies? Let’s power up this review of Ex Machina.
Ex Machina is written and directed by Alex Garland, famous for writing the film 28 Days Later. Internet company employee Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) has won the opportunity to go visit enigmatic CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Issac) for one week at his home. Upon arriving, Caleb learns that he was selected to be part of an Turing test (a test with a computer to determine whether it can have intelligent computer comparative to that of a human). The computer? A humanoid robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander), who may know more than she lets on. In a small underground bunker away from society, what could possibly go wrong?
For a first-time director, Alex Garland does a spectacular job creating an ominous mood with his cinematography and script. Honestly, it felt like a “what-if” situation. What if Stanley Kubrick made a Frankenstein film, but with a robot? The shots were long and the tension builds with the characters. It felt like something out of The Shining. But going back to the cinematography. It was sleek and understated. One thing that struck me in the movie was the use of reflections and how they worked with the duality of the characters. None of the characters have pure intentions. They mask things from each other and themselves. Whether that was Garland’s intentions or not, I don’t know, but it looks amazing.
The other strength is the script. I haven’t seen anything that Garland has written, but from what I can see here, he has talent. The plot felt like a taut piece of piano wire. It never uncoiled and never allowed for a moment to relax. Over one week, the tension builds more and more until the final act where it snaps. Yet, what’s really interesting is the plot doesn’t go completely crazy. Even when it’s at its peak, the plot still feels level-headed and cool. It was unapologetic about its ambiguous end and it left me shocked and stunned as the credits rolled.
After years of putting off watching it, I found Ex Machina to be a fantastic sci-fi thriller. It has some interesting twists and turns that kept me surprised. I loved how the twists and turns were more psychological and character driven. It helped give the film an intensity that makes it stand out as one of the better science fiction films of this decade. I hope it becomes a sci-fi classic. The pacing, the cinematography, the performances left me spellbound. Ex Machina gets an A-. I highly recommend this movie. It’s short, and an interesting watch. It makes you think about the future of artificial intelligence in our own world.
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