Ex Machina

by Cap'n Carrot on July 15, 2015 · 0 comments

in Film

ex-machina-blu-rayIn creating a film about artificial life that is almost entirely driven on emotion rather than logic writer/director Alex Garland has beautifully crafted one of the most memorable movies in recent years. The film begins with a computer programmer winning an exclusive trip to the secluded home of the company’s CEO who has far more going on than anyone associated with the world’s largest search engine could possibly guess.

In the hidden compound Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) comes face-to-face not only with his boss, the alcoholic self-absorbed Nathan (Oscar Isaac), but also Nathan’s creation Ava (Alicia Vikander) who Caleb was handpicked to help Nathan test whether or not she is indeed the world’s first true Artificial Intelligence. Stranded miles from civilization in these odd surroundings, Caleb’s view on sentience and reality will be tested as Ava proves to be everything Nathan promises, and more.

Ex Machina is an amazing film. Through the use of CGI Ava is constructed around Vikander’s frame in a way that still emphasizes the actress’ sensuality while physically expressing the other-worldly feel of the character. Nathan’s home, a character of its own in a film filled with only a handful of actors, is equally intriguing as part smart house, part compound, part voyeuristic maze, part robotics lab, and part prison is poetically hidden in the middle of a naturalistic landscape. Given its CGI-enhanced star and visually-complex setting cinematographer Rob Hardy helps deliver visual feast for the audience to slowly devour.

Along with scenes of Caleb spending uncomfortable time with his boss, the film is broken into specific scenes of Caleb performing the Turing test on his subject to determine whether or not Ava is more than just a pretty face and indeed a true AI. Along the way he’ll uncover a few truths about Nathan, the nature of his work, and hidden secrets involving Nathan’s only on-site assistant (Sonoya Mizuno), all while fighting his own growing feelings for Ava who continues to warn Caleb about his host while seducing the only man other than her creator she’s ever met. Is Caleb right to distrust Nathan? Is the paranoia that Ava transfers on to Caleb deserved? Does she really care for Caleb? And whether she’s being truthful or deceptive, how do those conflicting possibilities ultimately effect Caleb’s determination about her consciousness and his own action or inaction towards her?

Gleeson and Isaac are well-suited for their roles, especially as the film begins to peel the layers of both characters better explaining who they are in relation to each other and to Ava. It’s Vikander, however, that makes the story work. We have no trouble believing Caleb could fall for the robotic woman. How could we when we’re falling just as fast? Sci-fi actresses almost never receive the credit they deserve but without her mesmerizing performance which mixes in robotic, childlike, and seductive moments effortlessly the movie would quickly fall flat.

Ex Machina is the movie I wanted Her to be. Although I very much appreciated Spike Jonze‘s film on many levels, Ex Machina has both an intellectual mystery and a volatile emotional component at the core of it story that I found far easier to connect with. At the same time Garland teases us with the true roles and motivations of each of the three main characters suggesting possible reasons for their actions without ever defining them into specific roles such as hero, villain, evil robot, or damsel in distress allowing the story to unfold without giving away too many of its secrets too quickly.

Available on both Blu-ray and DVD, extras include a full documentary on the themes of the film, short vignettes on various themes and characters, a digital copy of the film, and Q&A from SXSW featuring cast and crew discussing the movie.

[Lionsgate, Blu-ray $24.99 / DVD $19.98]

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