A stunning film without a hint of deus ex machina
Playing heavily on the psychological implications of an artificial being gaining human-like sentience, Ex Machina is a stunning piece of science fiction that grips from its opening moment to its shocking finale. Full of tension, horror and fascination, Ex Machina’s trio cast deliver an incredible performance to elevate this film to the forefront of the sci-fi genre. It’s intelligently written script and isolated setting really elevate the film and its social commentary about artificial intelligence and its affect on the human psyche is devastatingly powerful when the credits roll on this epic film.
The story focuses on Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer who wins a competition to go and see CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) in a private mountain resort. Upon learning he’s to be the human part of a turing test for robot Ava (Alicia Vikander), Caleb begins questioning everything around him including his own existence and what it means to be human. Its a clever story; there’s enough twists and turns to break up the suffocating tension that grips almost every scene. Even the hypnotically bizarre dance number delivers just enough surrealism, keeping itself tonally focused on building tension. Every scene is tense and right up until the explosive climax, you’re not quite sure what will happen. Its helped by a tight script that stays intelligently routed in its sci-fi origins while asking questions around humanity and what it means to truly be human.
All of this is helped along by some fantastic acting. Although Oscar Isaac is outstanding as unpredictable alcoholic Nathan, I’d argue that Alicia Vikander is the real stand out here. Her wide eyed stares and robotic mannerisms help to bring the AI to life and you really get a feel for the sheer scope of the project and close to being human she is. Not only does she manage to act and sound robotic, there’s enough humanity thrown in to sometimes switch off, forgetting this is a robot that Caleb is speaking to and its here that Ex Machina really thrives. An uneasy, surreal score helps to unsettle the picture further and some slick camera work and great lighting help bring each scene to life.
The beautiful setting of the remote mountain resort is the perfect location for the film and the majestic open beauty juxtaposes perfectly with the claustrophobic and suffocating setting for the vast majority of this title. It works well too and with such a well executed film, its hard to find faults with Ex Machina. Quite simply, this is one of the best science fiction films in recent memory and its ending is one that will leave shivers down your spine.