Ex Machina is a new sci-fi thriller from first time director Alex Garland. It is the story of a reclusive technological genius named Nathan (Oscar Isaac) who thinks he has created the world’s first conscious A.I. Nathan hires a young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) to spend a week at his research facility testing his theory.
This movie starts off in interesting fashion. I was intrigued right from the start and I stayed that way for the entirety of the film. The setting has an instantly creepy vibe. When we meet the character of Nathan, he seems like a really good guy, which puts us a little bit at ease. However, you constantly have the feeling that Nathan knows something that you don’t.
The acting in this film is exceptional. It is somewhat of a contained thriller, which means it relies on the acting and engaging dialogue to make it work. Oscar Isaac does a terrific job portraying Nathan. He spends the majority of the film shrouded in a degree of mystery and you are not quite sure if you should like him or not. The standout performance to me was Alicia Vikander, who played Ava, the A.I. She is undoubtedly the star of the show. With the use of some remarkable face acting, Vikander shows us a strangely human quality behind the eyes of the machine.
This movie succeeds in creating the type of atmosphere that I really like. It is quiet, methodically paced, and very, VERY unsettling. Garland did a great job building the tension steadily throughout the film. Another aspect of the film that I really like is how many questions it raises, both obvious and subtle, about humanity and technology. This could be seen as cliché, but the execution is so good that it didn’t feel that way to me.
The movie revolves around the relationship between the Caleb character and Ava. Again, this is something that could have felt very cliché if it hadn’t been executed extremely well. The dialogue between the two characters is tremendous and the actors commit fully and really sell it. There is a brilliant scene toward the end in which Caleb tells Ava a story about Mary in a black and white room. This is the scene that anchors the entire film.
I hope and expect to see more from Alex Garland in the near future. I loved the way this story was told through atmosphere, character interaction, and very strong dialogue. This was just a very well-made film all the way around.
Ex Machina was a very pleasant surprise for me. Just when I was starting to lose faith in the depth of modern cinema, this movie was just what I needed. It is creepy. It is extremely thought provoking. It is one of the best films of the year. The Movie Man gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars.