Ex_ Machina

She, Robot

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Cinema -

Re­lease Date: 23 Jan­uary

15 | 108 min­utes Direc­tor: Alex Gar­land Cast: Domh­nall Glee­son, Os­car Isaac, Ali­cia Vikan­der, Sonoya Minzuno

There’s no short­age of

big- screen sto­ries about the birth of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, but few have pulled them off with the suc­cess of Alex Gar­land’s Ex_ Machina. The vet­eran genre writer steps into the direc­tor’s chair for the first time here, and the re­sult is a sus­pense­ful, para­noia­fu­elled thriller that also man­ages to squeeze a thought­ful ex­plo­ration of the na­ture of hu­man con­scious­ness into its taut run­time.

Ef­fec­tively a three- han­der, it’s set five min­utes in the fu­ture and al­most en­tirely in the iso­lated home of tech prodigy Nathan ( Os­car Isaac). Un­der the pre­tence of hav­ing won a com­pe­ti­tion, Caleb ( Domh­nall Glee­son) is flown out to ad­min­is­ter the Tur­ing Test to Ava ( Ali­cia Vikan­der). But Ava isn’t a face­less chat­bot, she’s a re­mark­ably ad­vanced an­droid com­plete with see- through robot bits. Their ses­sions start off pleas­antly enough, but Caleb quickly learns that Ava isn’t happy about her im­pris­on­ment…

Grip­ping from its open­ing min­utes, Ex_ Machina has “cult clas­sic” run­ning through it like a stick of rock. In spite of its sin­gle lo­ca­tion set­ting and minis­cule cast it never feels stagey, and is loaded with com­pellingly smart ideas. Rather than chron­i­cle a con­ven­tional robot up­ris­ing, it turns this idea on its head and makes it in­creas­ingly clear that Ava is not the one to be feared. Or is that just what she wants you to be­lieve?

The battle lines are con­stantly shift­ing, all three cast mem­bers sell­ing the sub­tle psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare with stand­out per­for­mances. Vikan­der has the big­gest im­pact, por­tray­ing a ma­chine that’s con­vinc­ingly hu­man de­spite her grace­ful, ro­botic move­ment and speech pat­terns.

Bri­tish ef­fects house Dou­ble Neg­a­tive de­serve spe­cial men­tion for the sen­sa­tional job they’ve done bring­ing Ava to life – there’s never a mo­ment where the ef­fect is any­thing less than flaw­less. It’s a hand­some film too, the serene sur­round­ings con­trast­ing with the ster­ile in­te­ri­ors of Nathan’s home- cum­re­search- lab­o­ra­tory to strik­ing ef­fect.

A cou­ple of the film’s twists are too clearly tele­graphed but oth­er­wise it’s a hugely im­pres­sive sort- of de­but for Gar­land. A must- see. Jor­dan Far­ley Isaac and Glee­son were both cast in Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens shortly af­ter film­ing Ex_ Machina.

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