★★★★★ – “A powerful directional debut.”
Ex Machina is written and directed by Alex Garland and stars Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac.
Caleb, a young programmer, is selected by an internet millionaire to participate in a ground-breaking experiment evaluating the human qualities of a new AI.
Garland’s directional debut is a stunning, tense, thought-provoking masterpiece. Set in the not-too-distant future, we look as Caleb and the beautiful humanoid Ava interact through 7 sessions set in an extremely claustrophobic surrounding. We’ve seen movies take on this kind of storytelling before, but in no way like this. The visuals are simply amazing. The movie is set against the backdrop of Norway, which allows our characters to feel cut-off from the rest of the world.
The story develops trippingly and the interactions reel you in effortlessly as Vikander and Gleeson perform to such a believable extent that you are absolutely glued to the screen. Vikander is an extremely talented actress who has already kick-started a healthy career and this just adds to her success. Stripping right back to subtle movements and performing almost entirely through her eyes, she conveys a whole set of emotions which only makes her instantly convincing as a humanoid AI, seducing you into an unpredictable performance. Oscar Isaac is great as mysterious millionaire, Nathan, who owns a major internet search engine business. Hiding behind a beard, he brings an ultimately sparse yet tense portrayal to the character and keeps you guessing about the reasons for this experiment.
The visual effects are few yet vast in detail, but almost unnoticeable when on-screen. The majority of the effects are in the creation of Ava, and showcases a version of Vikander we have never before seen. It’s great to see the visual effects department getting a lot of appreciation, taking home a well deserved Oscar for Best Achievement in Visual Effects.
Original music by Geoff Barrow & Ben Salisbury is heart-pumping and gritty. It feels very industrial and weaves in electronic effects to create an ambiance of suspense throughout the movie. A lot of the more intricate cues are placed in the final act of the story and work perfectly with the performances.
I’d also like to say some words of appreciation about the cinematography by Rob Hardy, which is just fantastic. Something I always look for when watching a movie is the visuals and how a director works with the cinematographer to construct beautiful and superior shots that work as binary, aiding the story and performances. Hardy has done this perfectly and I believe that he has the potential to be very successful with many awards under his belt in the near future.
Don’t be fooled by its somewhat simple plot, it will surprise you in the best of ways. Garland is of course known for his written work, but his direction is eccentric and needs to be seen.
My verdict; Ex Machina is a fast-paced, terrifying, beautiful, subtle and complex take on the sci-fi genre and will leave you wanting more. This is something to be experienced by everyone.
Ex Machina – ★★★★★ (10/10)