Ex_Machina (2015) – Review

ex machina poster review oscar finn media 2015

Ex_Machina tells the story of Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson, a young programmer at a world conquering search engine. Caleb wins an employee lottery to spend a week with the company founder, the elusive Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac, at his home.

Nathan tells Caleb that he wants him to carry out the Turing test on a new A.I. he has developed. At this point we are introduced to Ava, a seemingly innocent machine with a human face played by Alicia Vikander.

Right from the start there is an air of tension about this film, as we get pulled into this controlled and isolated world that Nathan has created. Nathan welcomes Caleb and shows him around instructing him on the key card system that controls where Caleb can and can’t go. The more of the house, or research facility, we see the more closed off from the real world we feel. There is a stark contrast between the claustrophobic, functional, facility and the wild, and open expanse in which it is situated, this serves to remind the viewer of the chaotic nature of organic life and the cold, designed, precision of the artificial.

Ex_Machina is a stunning debut for Alex Garland as director, following on from scripting duties on films like 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and the sadly underrated Dredd. There were a few points in the film where I felt I knew where this was going to go but was presently surprised when events took a different turn. With this film Garland demonstrates that you don’t need bloated budgets, Ex_machina was made for the low, low price of $20 Million. Nor does Garland have to fill every other scene with car chases, fight sequences, and explosions to present a movie about artificial intelligence and robots.

This is a film that relies on the performances of its cast, and they do an excellent job. Oscar Isaac is aloof, mysterious, and intimidating as a genius with aspirations of god-hood, but it is Gleeson and Vikander’s performances that grab hold of you and don’t let go until long after the film is finished.

At its core it’s the story of four characters who spend a week together in a house, but it is the journey that these characters take and how they change, or rather how our perception of these characters change over the course of the film that will, if you let it, leave you questioning what it is to be alive. After spending two hours in the confines of the film’s setting I emerged from the cinema to a busy city centre street and I actually stopped to look at all the people and the hustle and bustle which demanded contemplation on; I quickly sought refuge in a nearby drinking emporium and two pints of cold beer later I was ready to reintegrate with the human race.

I can see a place for Ex_Machina in my top ten films of the year and thoroughly recommend it to anyone looking for smart science fiction.



CAST Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander,Oscar Isaac Sonoya Mizuno

DIRECTOR  Alex Garland


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