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.