Ex Machina – A mind-blowing directorial debut
Written and directed by: Alex Garland
If you are a fan of film, you almost certainly know who Alex Garland is. His incredible novel “The Beach” was adapted for film by Danny Boyle. He later wrote two screenplays the director in the films “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine”, which are both considered cream of the crop in their respective genres. So it is no surprise that, in his directorial debut, he hits a home run.
“Ex Machina” follows Caleb (Gleason), a computer programmer, as he travels to the secluded estate of his employer Nathan (Isaac). He is going as the result of winning a company-wide competition that allows the winner access to not only Nathan’s home but also a glimpse of the A.I. technology he is working on. He quickly discovers though that the true reason he is there is to interact with Nathan’s A.I. creation Ava (Vikander), and decide if she passes the Turing test (a test in which a human decides if a machine can fool people into believing it is in fact human).
My first thought of the scenario was that the name Ava seemed like a mix of Adam and Eve, and it made sense. Nathan is the creator (even referring to himself as “God” in one scene and Ava’s “Father” in another), and Caleb and Ava are secluded in his world as he watches their interactions. Ava is beautiful, charismatic, and so human like that Caleb is enthralled from the beginning. Alicia Vikander does an amazing job at portraying a machine with strong hints of human emotion. Her physical form is a rare accomplishment in cinema. You would almost believe they created real A.I.. I spent half of the movie wide-eyed and marveling at the special effects.
There are moral and ethical questions in this film, to be sure, but it never comes off as preachy or heavy-handed. The film instead takes a “Frankenstein” approach with it’s creator matching wits with his creation. Garland’s script is strong, the acting by all three stars is wonderful, and the look and feel of the movie deliver exactly the tone that Garland was aiming for. A smashing success of a debut film, and a strong entry into the genre. “Ex Machina” is sure to join the ranks of “Blade Runner” as a sci-fi staple.