Computer programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins the chance to spend a week with Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the CEO of the company he works for, at his grand secluded research facility/residence. The lucky prize winner is asked to evaluate the human qualities of a female artificial intelligence; Ava (Alicia Vikander). Caleb’s prize retreat begins to turn sour once he starts noticing peculiar activity.
The tension of this film can feel slightly empty at times. It’s almost as if the aesthetic quality is the only element creating dramatic suspense, opposed to the narrative structure which feels lacking of any theatrical power. Having said that, it works incredibly well as a thought-provoking piece of cerebral sci-fi. The ending is as rewarding as you’d hope but that’s as far as it goes – perhaps too predictable in it’s reveal. However, at the same time, it fits in perfectly to the uncomfortable doctrine of the plot.
Something that stands out so well for this film is the look and general appearance of Ava (***Spoiler Alert***) and the other A.I’s. Cinematic technology is so incredibly advanced these days, that it’s easy as viewers to take most special effects for granted. For Ex Machina, the use of computer technology doesn’t exhibit the typical flashy CGI effects we’ve become so accustomed to as of late but is as quietly profound as anything you may have ever seen. It also stands as a humbling reflection to how far special effects in film has come, especially when making the comparison to similar visual effects used in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, most notably the skin pealing sequences.
It’s great to see the dynamic onscreen chemistry between Isaac and Gleeson work so well. This obviously bodes well for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens for which they both have big roles to play. Personally, I’d like to see something a bit more challenging from Gleeson as his character in Ex Machina felt like an ever so slightly gutsier version of his character in Frank (if not exactly the same). This is coming from a big admirer of his as I know he is more than capable of excelling in a challenging or difficult role (and of course, there’s nothing worse than seeing a promising young actor end up in the realm of the type-cast).
The chilling and unsettling cinematography of the film is incredibly powerful, which is thoroughly reinforced by the ghostly Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow score. It’s eerie ambient tones really lend itself to the uncomforting nature of the film.
It’s wonderful to see Alex Garland with a directorial debut as sharply fresh to science-fiction as this. If his next film is anywhere near the same level, then it will be very intriguing to see him work as an overall filmmaker opposed to only engaging as a writer (albeit a fantastic one).
Overall, this film is a brilliantly haunting psychological sci-fi rendering of the classic Willy Wonka tale (chuckles), however, don’t expect to find chocolate rivers or oompa loompas as you’ll be bitterly disappointed. I’m afraid, only paranoia, desire, and a lunatic scientist with a collection of female humanoids are to be found in this factory.
4 Turing Tests out of 5
by Simon Garganera Price