Ex Machina (2015)

Director: Alex Garland
Certificate: 15
Runtime: 108 min

While walking around town I saw an advert for a film on the side of a bus. It was Ex Machina. I knew from the title and the image in the advert of an android, that it was a sci fi, so I didn’t bother looking it up, and just went straight to see it. I recognised the lead actor, Domnhall Gleeson, straight away, as he had been in an episode of Black Mirror I’d seen, Coincidentally, he had played an android in it. In Ex Machina, he plays a coder that wins a competition to spend a week in the compound of the CEO of the company he works for. There is a hint of comedy when he arrives at the compound to be met with an automated system that takes his picture suddenly, for use in his key card and it shows him with an amusing surprised look on his face. At that point, I suspected the film would be a somewhat tongue in cheek science fiction themed dry comedy. However, after that the film largely had a more serious tone, although, there were times when I wondered whether it was supposed to be humorous or not. The science depicted in the film, is convincing and the special effects, while limited, are incredible.

As the story unfolds, it turns out Domnhall Gleeson’s character, Caleb, is there to perform a Turing test on a android with artificial intelligence that is thought to even possess actual consciousness like a human. The android is female in gender, if you can think of an android has having gender, and is played by Alicia Vikander. There are strong elements of sexuality throughout the film which I was surprised by at first but then related to the anime, Ghost In The Shell, which follows similar themes. The CEO of the company, Nathan, is played by Oscar Isaac. I felt his character was the most complex as there was a lot of nuance in the delivery of his lines. He conveyed a certain attitude, consistently, throughout. Ultimately, the film turns out to be a psychological thriller, within the Sci Fi genre, with twists and turns that build up into what could have been a spectacular finale had it been less anticlimactic. One issue I had with the film was that Caleb, while being the lead, played a bit of a sucker, and so it was hard for me to root for him. He’s supposed to be a bit of a genius and that could have been showcased more in the film. His character is incredibly plain whereas Ava the android and Nathan the CEO have a bit more going on in terms of personality. Nathan has an assistant, called Kyoko, played by Sonoya Mizuno, and while she doesn’t have any lines, she is fascinating, with the most memorable scene for me being when she dances with Nathan in what turns out to be a choreographed dance sequence between them. It’s a great scene. Ex Machina is an entertaining and at times gripping film, that is comparable to, although not quite as good as, the film, ‘Her’, starring Joaquin Phoenix.

Ex Machina is written and directed by Alex Garland and is his directorial debut.

Reviewed by Alistair Martin


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