What can I say about this movie that hasn’t already been said? It’s wonderful, it has great character arcs, it has one of the best dance scenes I’ve ever seen, the visual effects are out-of-this-world, the score is perfectly in sync with the film and the AI aspect is incredibly well developed. Needless to say, I liked it. I liked it a lot.
I want to start off by saying that I’ve been pronouncing the title of this movie wrong since I first read it. I’ve been pronouncing it Ex-Machine-A when it should be pronounced Ex-Mauck-In-A. I was actually really surprised with myself because I watched Appleseed Ex Machina when it came out in 2007 (I was a huge anime fan. I still am, I just don’t get around to watching it as often as I used to) and I’m usually the one teasing other people about mispronunciations. Anyways, I was humbled and hopefully my embarrassment will help you avoid looking like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
For those of you that haven’t seen it (I feel like I’m the last person in the world to have seen it), Ex Machina is about a young coder named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who is invited to the secluded mansion of the CEO of his company. When he gets there he meets the CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), who tells him that his purpose for coming is to perform a Turing Test on a robot that he’s built that he claims has AI. The robot’s name is Ava (Alicia Vikander). A Turing Test tests a robots ability to demonstrate behaviour that makes it indistinguishable from a human; it is the true test of artificial intelligence. As the plot progresses and Caleb tests Ava through their conversations, it becomes apparent that she is more than a mere machine. Nathan has created something truly extraordinary.
Throughout the film there is a sense that something isn’t quite right; things are not as they appear. There is an underlying tension in everything that is done and a feeling that there is a double meaning in everything that is said. This film is written and directed by Alex Garland, who in my eyes, is a genius. He also wrote Sunshine, which is one of my favourites, and he wrote 28 Days Later, which was a pretty formidable entry in to the zombie genre. Ex Machina was his first stab at directing and I think he hit it out of the park. The subtle nuances throughout the film and the incredible clarity of direction that this film has makes me very excited to see what he will do next.
A review of this movie wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the astounding performances of the cast. Vikander was incredible as Ava. Every look, every movement was calculated, yet there was a clear burgeoning emotional intelligence in her. You could almost see her thinking and plotting and, although you wanted to believe that she was sincere, there was something sinister in there as well. Gleeson and Isaac played off each other wonderfully, the visual cues of light and dark accentuating this dynamic. There was so much going on that wasn’t explicitly stated and these actors took all those cues and ran with them. They really deserve a lot of praise for the story that they helped create.
All the production elements were so well done. The CGI, the lighting, the set design, everything worked together flawlessly to created a beautiful movie. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from a sci-fi. Along with horror, this is my favourite genre and all the aspects of this movie came together to create an movie experience that won’t soon be forgotten. This is one of the best movies I’ve seen so far this year. Give it a go and let me know your thoughts.
To finish this review off, here’s a clip of one of the best dance scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Also, I love Caleb’s face in this clip.
Life goal = learn this dance.
SPOILERS AHEAD – Do not read this if you haven’t seen the movie
I found the ending to be the perfect conclusion to the movie. It proved that, at the heart of it, she was still a machine and, although she did have some emotional responses and she had certain drives and instincts, like survival, she still doesn’t have the same basic emotional attachments and feelings of loyalty that humans have. She showed no remorse or regret at leaving Caleb behind, possibly to die.
I often find that movies open with a great premise, flesh it out well and then completely let everything fall apart in the end. This movie held on to it’s strong foundations and actually produced an ending that solidified the earlier moments in the film. If anything, it completely turns our emotional attachment to Ava upside down. We’re rooting for her and we don’t trust Nathan. We think that there is perhaps something more sinister going on and that Ava is the victim, yet we are still cautious to trust her completely. We want her to be good but we also want her to be a fraud because we want to believe that human life is special and it can’t be recreated in a lab.
The ending engrains both messages into the watcher. We see that she is a victim, she defends herself and escapes, which we can’t blame her for, but we are still able to claim that humanity cannot be reproduced. We are special. We have a moral compass and compassion for each other. We are better. Maybe not more equipped for survival, but at the end of the day, we can say that what we have is what counts.