Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 48 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Graphic Nudity, Language, Sexual References and some Violence
Directed by: Alex Garland
Written by: Alex Garland
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac & Sonoya Mizuno
Going into 2015, EX MACHINA was one of the films I was looking forward to the most. This looked like an eerie, original and insane piece of work. April 10th came and went, but the film only wound up in very few theaters. I endured the agonizing wait for my first given opportunity to catch this film on the big screen (that turned out to be two weeks and some change thanks to college finals). Having now seen EX MACHINA, I can safely say that it easily has a spot reserved on my Top 10 Films of 2015! This movie blew me away.
Caleb, a young computer programmer, has won the opportunity of a lifetime. He’s going to spend a week at the secluded home of genius inventor, Nathan Bateman. Once inside of Nathan’s isolated estate, Caleb finds that he’s won far more than just a week of hanging out with his celebrated boss. He’s getting the chance to be part of a massive technological discovery. Nathan has constructed the first well-rounded artificial intelligence in the form of a sleek female robot named Ava and Caleb is going to test out her consciousness through a series of conversations. As the week goes on, Caleb finds himself becoming increasingly disturbed by Nathan’s erratic behavior and increasingly attracted to Ava. Needless to say that things aren’t as simple as they appear…
EX MACHINA is a carefully structured, claustrophobic thriller. Nearly the entirety of the film takes place at Nathan’s amazing home/research facility. The isolation becomes nearly as much of a character as Caleb, Nathan and Ava. Speaking of which, all of the performances in this film are phenomenal. Domhnall Gleeson plays Caleb as an intrinsic good guy and we root for him from start to finish. Meanwhile, Oscar Isaac (an impressive actor with a recent slate of solid work) proves himself to be both darkly hilarious and utterly terrifying as Nathan. He has a likable side to him, but there’s also a darker, far more twisted frame of mind that becomes more and more apparent as the film moves along. Both of these actors are great as a two-man show, but Alicia Vinkander’s startling turn as Ava is really the big draw here. Though she’s a machine, Ava becomes the main focus and is sure to go down as one of cinema’s greatest robot characters.
The tone of the film is unnerving all the way through. There’s a nice slow building dread that gets downright suffocating at points. The film is beautifully shot as well. The entire look/feel of Nathan’s unique home is original, but the special effects bringing Ava to life are absolutely astounding. To make things even creepier than they already are, a masterfully eerie soundtrack is present and heightens the tension of certain scenes. A sequence in which Caleb explores Nathan’s findings later in the film is downright nightmarish.
This brings me to the script of EX MACHINA which is absolutely perfect too! The film could have easily taken a couple of predictable twists that would have cheapened the entire story, but it goes for a smarter and more original route. There was one surprise later on that I called in advance, but it’s pretty obvious to anyone paying attention. So much so, that I feel it was intentionally apparent. While the slow building suspense is well done in its own right, the second half of the movie is where I was left surprised multiple times. The finale of this movie floored me and to give anything specific away would be doing a disservice.
EX MACHINA more than lived up to the hype for me. This is the most original movie of the year thus far! Filled by plenty of haunting revelations, there is definite commentary on what it means to be human and where our technological advances might take us. Backed by fantastic performances and a superior script, the story is brilliant from beginning to end. Aided by a haunting soundtrack and scenes that aren’t going to leave my head any time soon, the movie is equally frightening and beautiful. I left the theater stunned and blown away. EX MACHINA is the best science fiction film to come out in a long, long time!