It’s incredible how much first time director Alex Garland does with so little in Ex Machina. The movie focuses on three main actors, one central location and almost no action. The film itself only had a budget of 15 million dollars. Yet the story that Garland manages to tell is so profoundly perfect that it manages to combine all of these pieces into a far greater whole. His depiction of Artificial Intelligence is sleek, sexy and completely in step with where our current obsession with technology could take us. In many ways the best and most chilling part of Ex Machina, was that it seemed just out of the current realm of possibility. It’s a perfect example of great science fiction.
The plot follows a young coder named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who is invited to spend a weekend with reclusive tech genius Nathan (Oscar Isaac) in order to secretly test his newly created A.I. dubbed Ava (Alicia Vilkander). Domhnall Gleeson fits right into this movie having played a robot in an episode of the fantastic British Television show on Netflix called the Black Mirror. He also earned his indie props last year when he was the main protagonist in Frank. Oscar Isaac is probably the biggest stand out of the film as his character is the most interesting and wild. It will be exciting to see him play my favorite comic villain in next year’s X-Men: Apocalypse. Of course Alicia Vilkander probably does the best job in this film as she convinces the audience successfully that she is in fact not human whilst simultaneously playing an A.I. trying to pass for human. If your heads spinning from that sentence, this movie will ensure it stays spinning.
The movie consists of some really wild dualistic themes throughout. The film is split into two sections early on. There are Ava sessions in which Caleb attempts to determine if the A.I. can pass for human and moments in which Caleb discusses the A.I. with Nathan. The uniformity and technological gloss of Nathan’s lab and home are contrasted with the breathtaking wilderness he built it in. Nathan himself is cut into two people. On one hand he is an unparalleled genius. On the other he is a sleazy drunk who creates his A.I. so that he can have sex with it. Oh yes, there is a reason why he built his robot to resemble an incredibly gorgeous woman. The movies core narrative is simple while its subtext and discussions on A.I. are profound. The dual nature of everything in the film seems to reflect our own obsessions with technology but that’s just one man’s take on it.
Overall this is easily the best movie I’ve seen this year. After being disappointed by the portrayal of A.I. in Avengers: Age of Ultron; I was really happy to see something that was so radically different in tone and texture whilst dealing with a shared topic. Alex Garland has created a special movie and I can’t wait to watch it again and again to dissect every twist and turn in the narrative. Not that I’d expect anything less from the man who wrote the modern day classic, 28 Days Later. If you haven’t seen that I’d definitely recommend it, as it deals with the Zombie genre in a similar way as Ex Machina handles A.I. By that I mean that both movies are totally engrossing and intellectually stimulating and I really can’t say anything better about a film than that.