It’s not often that we get a Sci-Fi movie that is realistic Sci-Fi. It’s something that’s seldom tackled, and tackled well. But when it’s done right it can ascend to the ranks of notable works like 2001 A Space Odyssey, and though 2001 is a prime example, a good realistic Sci Fi movie will make you ponder about what you just saw and how real it might actually seem, Ex Machina accomplishes this task thanks to a fascinating script by veteran writer and freshman director Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Dredd) and works the little cogs in our brain to see how we really feel. By the end of the endeavor we may not know how to feel about anything presented to us, and that means the movie did it’s job well.
It’s an interesting beast Ex Machina, with only 3 leads and little variety, we see that Garland likes to keep everything at home, quite literally. A little background for you: A young man named Caleb wins the opportunity to come meet the CEO of the company he works for; an incredibly popular search engine. Upon arrival of a beautiful but lonely Alaskan frontier he meets his CEO; Nathan. They stay at Nathan’s lavish and isolated home where most everything has a sleek electronic interface, Nathan informs Caleb that he is there for a reason, to help Nathan test what could be a groundbreaking invention for mankind; Artificial Intelligence.
When Caleb meets the AI, better known as Ava, gears start to shift and humanity is really called into question. It’s odd to ask how something so false can appear so real but that’s the beauty in the performances in this film. I wouldn’t describe Ava as robotic, but more like a flawed work of art. She moves and processes information at a different rate but some of her actions seem so juvenile with such good intentions. It makes easy for a cultured and informed man like Caleb to question it but have some sympathy at the same time. All 3 leads are played astronomically well.
Oscar Isaac steals the show as Nathan, for a genius he doesn’t act as one or appear as one. Caleb fits the role of the audience knowing right from wrong, questioning the intelligence, gaining empathy for those tarnished, Ava is the wild card, as the AI, we don’t know how she really feels, if she feels, what she feels, and it starts to affect our characters along the journey. Ava is so well played that you wonder about every next interaction that Caleb has with her. Garland is a master at his craft in storytelling, weaving threads that all neatly tie together at the end but twist and break in between the knots, Ex Machina may not be the blockbuster movie that many will look for this summer but it’s the damned smartest movie I’ve seen in a long time, Nothing is without it’s faults, every choice has a reaction, they’re all competent people that don’t make stupid decisions
The kicker of Ex Machina isn’t how great of a realistic science fiction movie it is, but how human it is. How we all have our issues, morals, choices. By the end of the film I wasn’t sure which side I was on and how I felt. It made me think of my own humanity, and it’s given a rich atmosphere thanks to a very light and often brooding background soundtrack, and a stunning contemporary world that can turn ominous when things go down. The movie isn’t without it’s faults, we hear the occasional oddball dialogue and the ending would have had a better impact if it was 2 minutes shorter, otherwise we have the workings of a terrific film, and one of the smartest I’ve seen in which I had to put my thinking cap on tight well after the credits.
Ex Machina gets a 9/10