Have you ever wondered what life would be like if artificial intelligence was a part of our everyday lives? Well, thanks to Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, we don’t have to.
Ex Machina was released in 2015 and marked the directorial debut of screenwriter Alex Garland whose work can be seen in 2002’s 28 Days Later and 2012’s Dredd. In short, the movie tailors around Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a young programmer who is shortlisted to participate in an experiment hosted by the revolutionist Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a well-esteemed programmer responsible for the creation of Ava (Alicia Vikander), a scarily-realistic humanoid A.I.
If you’re already drawing comparisons to Alex Proyas’ I, Robot you wouldn’t be blamed for doing so. Similarly to the 2004 film, Ex Machina also taps into our fears towards the threat of future technological advancements, yet only this time it’s executed so much better than its predecessor.
In particular, I was extremely interested in the limited cast that the film has to offer. More often than not I have enjoyed films that have made similar casting decisions, with the likes of Hard Candy and Hitchock’s Rope proving that minimalism can have a profound affect on our reading of a film. Thankfully, the small cast consisting of Domnhall, Isaac and Vikander only benefit the movie. The absence of overcrowding adds a certain focus to the characters on show, and helps to foreground the fantastic performances on display. The trio all bring something unique to the table; with Caleb’s geeky awkwardness, Nathan’s cryptic motivations and Ava’s subtle manipulation all coming together to demonstrate some really strong character development. The authentic dialogue being exchanged between the characters also did nothing but add to the realism of a world that is, scarily enough, a very strong possibility for future years. It’s always nice to watch a movie that doesn’t feature mechanic conversation, and Garland’s writing prowess is on full display here.
Visually speaking, Ex Machina is astonishing, and there’s no wonder that the film was awarded an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects. The entire appearance of Vikander’s Ava is breathtakingly believable, with no indication of post-production enhancements ever being made. The way Ava moves and communicates is parallel to the way in which a human maneuvers, something that is absolutely paramount for a Sci-Fi film to achieve. If there was even a single clue that her appearance is fake, although in reality we know that it is, the movie throws away any hope of creating an environment that is remotely believable, and because of this; I can only applaud Ex Machina‘s visual effects team.
Although I say the film falls into the Sci-Fi genre, there’s so much more to it than that. Yes, it’s about artificial intelligence that doesn’t yet exist, but the movie is also extremely tense, mysterious and completely frightening to behold. There’s certain moments in the movie where we find ourselves questioning who we should root for. Are we advocating the betrayed lab rat, the manipulative machine or the morally questionable creator? These type of moments are the ones that make this film stand out from being your everyday Sci-Fi flick with there not being a minute of this film that we aren’t trying to puzzle everything together.
What I loved most about this movie, though, was how it presented the relationship between Caleb and Ava. At first, Caleb is adamant in maintaining a professional and controlled relationship with Nathan’s creation, yet as the film progresses, Caleb starts to fall for her. Man, even I started to empathise with Caleb’s inability to remain strictly professional towards her. The film does an excellent job in speculating what a relationship between a human and A.I. could look like in the real world, and if we’re not lucky, we could find ourselves experiencing it. You can count me out.
VERDICT: – A Visual Masterpiece!
On the whole, Alex Garland has once again succeeded in bringing a great deal of realism to a world that we can only hope will never exist. The film’s Frankenstein-esque story of rebellion does an excellent job in proving how vulnerable we truly are in the face of technological advancement, and also raises questions about whether we should be meddling in these advancements to begin with. Ex Machina is intense, suspenseful and has gorgeous visuals – the only bugbear I have with it is that I hope it doesn’t inspire others to create their very own Ava.