The following is a spoiler-free review of EX_MACHINA by Alex Garland.
This was a film that I was really excited about after seeing the trailer. Though, for some unknown reason, I believe it was never released in theaters in Denmark. Thus I had to wait for the Amazon Blu-Ray release date, which is finally here. Was the wait worth it? Short answer: Most definitely.
EX_MACHINA is a smart science fiction thriller revolving around the development of artificial intelligence, featuring three main characters that are very different, but are equally important. It follows the character Caleb, a coder for the company Blue Book, who has won the opportunity to spar with the founder of the company. After signing a non-disclosure agreement, Caleb is to test a humanoid robot named Ava. Their relationship sets the stage for a terrific cinematic experience.
It’s well known to readers of this blog that I am a big fan of Spike Jonze’s Her, and thus it wouldn’t surprise me if you thought this was a film exactly like that one. However, Garland’s A.I. experiment is very different from Jonze’s, and the movies only resemble each other on the surface.
This does not harm Garland’s film, though, as EX_MACHINA is a much more welcoming film to science fiction fans and newcomers alike than you could’ve expected. Make no mistake, this film is a thriller – this film is smart – but it is not too complicated nor does it present any intangible ideas or abstract terms.
This brings us to the positives and the negatives of the film, and there are two things I’d like to touch upon when it comes to the latter. First of all, EX_MACHINA is very human, but also somewhat predictable. The second and final point is that the protagonist, Caleb (played by Domhnall Gleeson), makes decisions that are questionable at best. Which isn’t to criticize Gleeson, he did just fine.
Nathan, the founder of Blue Book, is fun to watch – and he is the gateway to a surprising amount of humor in this film. Nathan is clearly arrogant, but there’s definitely a method to the madness. I really enjoyed watching Oscar Isaac in this film – he is becoming a great actor, and to know that he will be one of the leads in the new Star Wars-trilogy is comforting.
Isaac is great, but any and all performances in this film pale in comparison with the portrayal of the masterful character Ava. Ava is intriguing, and the character comes off as being much more than meets the eye. That’s partly due to the script and direction, but also due to the spectacular performance 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.
We also need to pay respect to the directorial debut of Alex Garland, who is assisted by a solid cinematographic performance by Rob Hardy. This film is stunning in more ways than one. This film has the potential of being a real classic within the subgenre of science fiction thrillers, and that’s marvelous considering the fact that 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, tangible, and 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.
I’m Jeffrey Rex