Ex Machina (2015)

"You're not a man. You're a god."

Ex Machina completely flew under my radar. I knew of it, but didn't know anything about it aside from that it was in the science fiction genre and had to do with A.I. and was at 90% on RT. A good friend asked if I wanted to check it out this weekend, so I went in sight unseen. That being said, I saw the trailer for this after I watched the movie, out of curiosity. If you have any interest in seeing this after you read this, don't watch the trailer. It reveals some of the best bits of the movie, and seeing those beforehand without context could take a lot away from your viewing experience. Trailers these days really suck, and I've now stuck to the practice of avoiding them at all costs.

Here's the setup - a young programmer at a fictional Facebook/Google company named Caleb (played by the excellent Domhnall Gleeson) is randomly chosen to hang out at his CEO's estate for a week. The CEO, Nathan (played by Oscar Issac) invites Caleb to test out his new artificial intelligence project, Ava, blending the lines between what is real and what isn't.

This is Alex Garland's directorial debut - previously, he had written some Danny Boyle movies (28 Days Later, Sunshine) and Dredd, but this is his first behind the camera. Unsurprisingly, he also wrote Ex Machina. I think it's his most polished story to date, although it's not without it's holes. The movie is very striking visually - you can tell that he had a limited budget to work with, and although most of it went towards Ava's construction (which looks wonderful), the compound at which the entire story takes place looks amazing.

There are three main actors in the film. Issac is terrific as a creator with a God complex. Gleeson, who I first fell in love with from his work in the British series Black Mirror, is great as the inquisitive programmer. Finally, Alicia Vikander plays Ava, our A.I. experiment. The whole movie rests on realizing whether or not she 'feels', and the way she plays the character definitely keeps the audience guessing. Every movement and facial expression she makes as Ava is believable and unsettling.

This is a very interesting take on the A.I. world that we're fast approaching. As I was watching it, I couldn't help but realize that what's going on in Ex Machina is probably being worked on as I type this in some remote Google lab. Not only is it probable, it's inevitable. That realism definitely sucked me in for the journey and begged discussion even once the film was over. The movie did drag in parts, but the ending was fantastic and definitely unexpected. This is a slow burn, "Hitchcockian" even, so don't go in expecting a techno-horror movie or any action. There aren't many laughs here aside from some sharp bits of dialogue and a hilarious dance scene that comes out of nowhere but fits within the context of the movie once it's over.

Overall, I liked it. It wasn't perfect - namely a blackout premise that any billionaire would have fixed, a catalyst for the story - but it kept my attention and the end made it worth it. I don't think you need to run out to the theater to see it, but it's worth a watch at some point.

Final Score: B+