Artificial Intelligence has been a technological goal for quite some time for some engineers and technologists. The notion of creating a consciousness for a robot that can make it aware and feel is seen as possibly a boon in human capability, as well as has planted fear that such an endeavor could pave the way for human extinction.
Despite this, many filmmakers have toyed around with the idea of artificial intelligence, and what forms it could take, from Stanley Kubrick’s HAL to Joss Whedon’s Ultron to Chris Columbus’ Bicentennial Man, the idea has been the point of many film’s discussion and meditation.
Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later and other films, makes his debut at the director’s chair of his movie Ex Machina and thankfully, due to taking time with the subject he’s trying to discuss bolstered by great acting, cinematography and music Ex Machina is one of the best movies of the year.
Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) is a coder at Bluebook, the world’s most prominent search engine. He wins a staff lottery that allows him to come to the secluded home of the company’s CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac), thinking that it could be a week retreat with the boozing and laid back owner. However, after signing a non-disclosure agreement, Caleb discovers why he’s truly there, to administer a Turing Test to Ava (Alicia Vikander) an AI that Nathan has been working on for years. As the sessions with Ave go on, it appears not all is as it seems for Caleb…
The acting in this film is fantastic from all three members of the main cast, Others have singled out Oscar Isaac, who is very good as the drunk yet intelligent Nathan, but these kinds of praises sometimes leave out the other two. Alicia Vikander is excellent in her role as Ava, giving nuance and heart to a robot can be difficult, but she is allowed to show different kinds of emotions, it was not like watching a robot, it was watching a person, and in the end that’s was the point of her character. Gleeson was also serviceable as Caleb, and did better than others gave him credit for, especially with some scenes later in the film.
Garland directs the movie at a slow pace, but it works as to let the audience marinate in what is being discussed, as well as exposes certain character goals and secrets. The cinematography of the film is also fantastic, offering beautiful outdoor shots while also capturing the claustrophobic nature of Nathan’s compound. It is a great debut from a long time screenwriter who seems to have picked up a thing or two from the filmmakers he’s worked with in the past, specifically Danny Boyle.
Garland’s script also fits the slow, meditative, pace of the film, and while it may not engage a plethora of ideas, it does a fine job of engaging the few it does, and offers a glimpse into the problems of the future that we may need to answer for ourselves with the rise of technology. The dialougue is very well written as well, with the sessions with Ava and Caleb as well as conversations between Nathan and Caleb are some of the film’s best.
Finally, the music made by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow was magnificent and realy augmented scenes in which they were used. The scores they came up with challenge It Follows with their haunting beauty and electronic riffs.
Overall, Ex Machina is the complete package, a film with strong acting, direction, writing and music that offers a conversation into what may soon be a reality, as well as what we as a species will do to cope with it. This is a movie worth searching out, and it could be a sleeper hit, as it deserves the praise its received as one of the year’s best.