The following is a review of EX_MACHINA — Directed by Alex Garland.
This is a film that I have been really excited about for a long time. The trailer just hooked me immediately. Though, for some unknown reason, I don’t believe it was ever released in theaters in Denmark. Therefore I had to wait until I got my hands on the Blu-Ray. Thankfully, the long wait was worth it. This is a cerebral science-fiction classic-in-the-making.
EX_MACHINA is a smart science fiction thriller that revolves around the development of an artificial intelligence. The film features three main characters that are very different, but who are all equally important. It follows the character Caleb (played by Domnhall Gleeson), a coder for the company Blue Book, who has won the opportunity to spar with the founder of the company, Nathan (played by Oscar Isaac). After signing a non-disclosure agreement, Caleb is provided the opportunity to test the artificial intelligence of a humanoid robot named Ava (played by Alicia Vikander). Their relationship sets the stage for a terrific cinematic experience.
Although the film does focus on the connection, or lack thereof, shared between Ava and Caleb, it would be wrong to say that this film is similar to Spike Jonze’s Her. Although it shares a genre, and even though both films are about conversations between a human and an artificial intelligence, Garland’s A.I. film is very different from Jonze’s, and the movies only resemble each other on the surface. Where Jonze’s masterpiece is quiet, reflective, funny, and moving, Garland’s film is fascinating, thrilling, and sometimes even frightening. EX_MACHINA is a much more welcoming film to mainstream science fiction fans. Make no mistake, this film is a cerebral thriller, but it is not too complicated and the topics that it deals with are explained fairly well.
I only really have two minor problems with Garland’s directorial debut. First of all, I think that EX_MACHINA can be a little bit predictable, and, secondly, I think that some character decisions are questionable, at best. But that is the end of my negative notes. This really is a terrific film.
Oscar Isaac, who plays the founder of Blue Book, is really fun to watch, and he is the gateway to a surprising amount of humor in the film. His character, Nathan, is clearly arrogant, but he has the intelligence to support that arrogance. I think that Oscar Isaac delivers a strong performance. Gleeson is perfectly fine in the film, but his character definitely is the audience-surrogate.
But every single performance in this film pales in comparison with the portrayal of the masterful humanoid robot-character, Ava. Ava is intriguing and much more than meets the eye. That’s partly due to the script and direction, but also due to the spectacular performance that Alicia Vikander gives. The Swedish actress is a revelation in this film, and there is no doubt in my mind that she is to become one of the next great actresses in Hollywood. This is a true breakthrough performance.
EX_MACHINA also has a great look. It is a stylish film. This film is stunning in more ways than one, though, and it has the potential of being a real classic within the subgenre of science fiction thrillers, which is incredible when you consider the fact that debut director Alex Garland had never done anything on the scale of this before.
Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.0 – Alex Garland’s directorial debut is stunning, frightening, and fascinating, and it features a legendary portrayal of a humanoid robot. It has the potential to be not just a cult classic, but a science fiction classic as well.
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.