EX MACHINA (2014)
Directed by: Alex Garland
Written by: Alex Garland
Domhnall Gleeson (Caleb)
Alicia Vikander (Ava)
Oscar Isaac (Nathan)
Sonoya Mizuno (Kyoko)
Caleb works for the biggest Internet company in the world, one morning he receives a message telling him he has won a company competition to spend a week with the companies CEO, Nathan, in his isolated private home. When Caleb arrives on his ‘adventure of a lifetime’ he finds it not the expected holiday to hang out with and pick the brains of one of the world’s leading geniuses but in fact he has to take part in a ‘working’ experiment as Nathan, wants him to interact and study his most exciting project. An apparently fully autonomous robot which is for all intents and purposes a beautiful young woman.
Alex Garland is no stranger to writing interesting and different stories but this is his first dip in the waters of directing a film. He jumped in fully clothed and swam with utter confidence in those waters too. Make no mistake this is science-fiction for grown-ups. Whilst the special effects are up on the screen, there is a robot, there is a mystery, this film asks many questions once we get to Nathans ‘fortress of solitude’ but like good stories it doesn’t lead you by the nose and it doesn’t provide you with answers. Those are for you to make up for yourself. Therefore Ex Machina has as many endings and motivations to the tale as you want.
Certainly, we are here in the territory of Blade Runner, Channel 4’s Humans and the newest video game Detroit: Become Human among a few that come to mind. In all honesty, it is a topic, subject and line of thought that endlessly fascinates me and if it is approached with some skill and thought then I’m in. I’m biased. So it stands to reason I was always going to like this film.
Throw into this mix of great ideas a three-handed cast of top young actors with the film-making universe at their feet, Oscar Issac, Domhnall Gleeson, film by film eclipsing his father, and the utterly perfect Alicia Vikander and you have a fantastic prospect before you.
For a film the really does look at some very heavy and philosophical topics the story, running at just over 1 hour and 45 minutes, doesn’t drag and zips along at a pace. As I have said the film is asking nothing new nor will it stop you in your tracks, Phillip K. Dick had been asking these type of questions in his stories nearly fifty years ago so to my mind it is not the question but how it is asked. Ex Machina asks them in such an entertaining way that I was ‘in’ from the start.
The single location, for most of the story, is simple, uncluttered yet semi-futuristic and does not distract, it is the sort of the place you imagine the next centuries Elon Musk would inhabit. The visual effects are sublime with the slight Vikander looking as much like an advanced robot as you could wish. It may sound as if Ex Machina is a solemn, serious and pompous science-fiction film yet the story is infused with a playful sense of humour and yet richly dark vein as well.
Plot holes? Of course there are, this is a film about a robot so advanced you cannot tell if it is a robot or not so they are there. I enjoyed the questions it asked as much as the story. Oh dear I think I’ve said the thing about ‘asking questions’ about three times now.
I highly recommend this film to anyone unless you really are just an action film aficionado and even then give it a go.
Consciousness. What is it?