There were a couple of films due out in 2015 that I had on my “MUST-SEE” list. A couple of films that intrigued me and excited me when I saw their respective trailers. This was one of those two films (the other was Chappie). Directed and written by Brit, Alex Garland, who has had previous success as the writer of films such as 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Dredd, this is his debut in the Director’s chair, and so it was up in the air, would he be successful in it. Yes, yes he would.
The plot of Ex Machina follows Caleb played by Domhnall Gleeson (Frank, About Time, Dredd) who is a twenty-six year old successful coder at a huge internet company. He receives an email informing him that he has won a competition to spend a week at a mountain retreat in the middle of nowhere which belongs to a guy named Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), who is the owner and CEO of the company Caleb works for. When Caleb gets to this beautiful and advanced building after being dropped off in a field by a helicopter, he finds that he is there to take part in an experiment. The experiment is for him to interact with Nathan’s creation, the first true A.I in the world, which happens to also be a beautiful android named Ava (Alicia Vikander). The experiment begins honestly and simply enough, but things take turns of various kinds, and the reclusive Nathan begins to show his true personality.
This film blew my mind for so many reasons, let’s go into them, shall we? There are the smaller things that really just exist yet offer something wonderful, such as the setting of the wilderness, the middle of nowhere, the rural mountains and waterfalls. It was shot in Norway, but it was supposed to be America, and it looks incredible. The nature of this is a contrast, and a striking one at that, to the tech and advanced futuristic science of inside the cabin. It is not dissimilar to the contrast between Ava, an advanced artificial intelligence with wires and chips inside her body, and Caleb and Nathan, two humans with flesh and bone and blood running through them.
Isaac, as the strange and erratic Nathan, is incredible. He is a genius and he knows it, and due to his riches he has been able to test the waters of things most people with his ideas would never be able to try. His being alone in this wilderness lodge for so long appears to have also affected Nathan’s mind, and it shows as the film progresses and we see the traits that he possesses and the reactions to Caleb and his interactions with Ava, his creation. Gleeson’s Caleb is the calmer side of the coin. A hard-worker with an opportunity, Caleb appears confused and in awe as he steps into this strange place and meets this peculiar man who pays his wages. He interacts with Ava to see how realistic she is, and if she could pass for human. She is beautiful and seductive in many ways. Vikander does a wonderful job as Ava, playing a character with programmed emotions yet showing much more. Subtle and brilliant. The interactions between her and Caleb are truly excellent to watch unfold.
The tension and curious build of atmosphere in Ex Machina make it something really unique. I’ve never seen anything like it when it comes to the way the plot unfolds and the places it takes us. It’s original and beautiful and dark and weird, four aspects I love to experience in film. With a cast who do a remarkable job in their roles, the performances are another part of the film that get a gigantic big tick from me. Garland knocks it out of the park in his directorial debut here. He has always been a very good writer, having been responsible for some fantastic stories in film in the past, but here, with this piece of work, he creates an entire product, a full movie, and it’s bloody fantastic. The score, too, from Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, works extremely well with the tone and look of the film.
It is very dark at times, and yet manages to inject moments of humour, some excellent science-fiction scenes, and some sexy sequences to boot. It was a film I was eager to see, and I was right to be so eager, it is one of the best films I have seen in the past 24 months, and I’ve seen many, many films in that timeframe. I couldn’t recommend it enough. See it now.