On Blu-ray, DVD and VOD today (US) – @lcfremont looks into the future with her Ex Machina review…
With Ex Machina, writer/director Alex Garland has officially let everyone know that he is a force to be reckoned with in the Sci-Fi community. Previously known for 28 Days Later, Dredd and Sunshine, his directorial debut leaves no doubt that he is nearly as talented as his protagonist Nathan.
Set in a future, which according to Garland could be ten minutes from now, Nathan is the reclusive CEO of the world’s largest internet company. He has been working on creating artificial intelligence and her name is Ava. Caleb is the employee who wins the once in a lifetime chance to participate in the Turing Test which will determine whether or not Ava passes as human even though she is all machine. Just in case you didn’t spend your Sunday’s in church, all of our characters have decidedly biblical names and it’s all very appropriate without being annoyingly obvious.
Caleb will be spending a week at the remote house/workspace of Nathan and he will be interacting with Ava as a friend. At the end of this Turing Test, Nathan is hopeful that Caleb will view Ava as human and this will deem his creation a success. Of course, nothing is really what it seems and you are immediately cued into the fact that Nathan may not be 100% truthful. Played with an intoxicating mix of menace, intelligence and sexiness by Oscar Isaac (Drive, A Most Violent Year) Nathan is truly a mad genius with a drinking problem and an excellent set of dancing feet. Seriously, the dance sequence in Ex-Machina is one of the most strangely beautiful things I have seen in ages.
A dance scene in a movie about A.I.? Yes, Ex Machina walks a magically sublime line of fantasy, mystery and danger, all set within an impeccably gorgeous and sterile environment. Caleb is played with a wonderful balance of curiosity and apprehension by Domhnall Gleeson who, himself, played an A.I. entity in the television show Black Mirror. The interactions between Caleb, Ava and Nathan are very precise and delicate and, at no time, are you completely sure that you really know what is going on or who has the upper hand. Much like an Alfred Hitchcock film, we have a femme fatale at the middle of our story and the real question becomes who is she deceiving? Alicia Vakinder may not be an icy blonde, but she definitely holds her own as Ava. She owns the screen every time she appears and there is a reverse strip tease that is one of the sexiest things put to celluloid in a VERY long time.
As an outspoken non-fan of Science Fiction, Ex Machina was a very delightful surprise that captivated from the first second and masterfully built tension until the very last moment. This is a sublimely gorgeous film with many layers and a lot of social commentary. The kind of movie that sits with you for days in the very best way, this is a must see for all fans of cinema. Did I mention that Oscar Isaac is the best thing ever?