ByJames Porter, writer at
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James Porter

"Ex Machina" is the directorial debut of Alex Garland, most known for writing the films "28 Days Later" and "Dredd", he has crafted an intelligent, thought provoking science fiction film that addresses questions about technology, morality and what it means to be human.

The story centers on Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a 'Bluebook' employee invited to the estate of the companies reclusive CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). When he arrives, he learns that Nathan invited him there so that he could test what he believes to be the worlds first operational Artificial Intelligence. Nathan conducts several tests with Caleb and the A.I, challenging his A.I's ability to display the consciousness and intelligence of a human.

When Caleb first sets eyes on the A.I, he has an instant connection with her. Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who is set to have quite the year in film, plays Ava, Nathan's sentient creation. Her face the perfect depiction of beauty, yet her body, whilst human in shape, has much of its inner mechanics exposed.

Caleb and Ava undergo several sessions, getting to know each other, whilst Nathan observes on CCTV from elsewhere. Once Caleb's initial shock and excitement is over, the two begin to grow a bond, and their conversations turn from playful to meaningful in a matter of days.

In between each setting, Nathan questions Caleb about what he's learned from Ava, and how he's starting to feel about her. If anything, these encounters are even more riveting than the ones between Caleb and Ava. Nathan grows evermore wary of Caleb's relationship with his A.I whilst Caleb becomes hesitant of Nathan's forthcoming intentions. A struggle for power quickly develops between the two, and its up to you to decide who's in the wrong.

What follows is an innovative science fiction tale, that begins to morph into horror and then backtracks, becoming unfortunately predictable and ultimately disappointing.

The film starts off as a truly delightful take on A.I, yet as it develops, it loses focus and becomes increasingly incoherent.

The film is performed to perfection by its three leads, most of all by Oscar Isaac who has yet to give a bad performance. He plays Nathan as a true mystery, being both appealing and terrifying. Ultimately becoming the character I had the most empathy for.

Domnhall Gleeson serves as a perfect antithesis to Nathan, playing Caleb as a gleeful yet cautious guest in Nathan's facility. Caleb has a morality that becomes increasingly important as the film progresses. Vikander is cast perfectly as Ava, playing the A.I as a startling yet elegant character. She has an otherworldly presence about her that you won't be able to take your eyes off. Vikander ironically brings great ounces of humanity to the part.

The problem with "Ex Machine" however is that is is tonally inconsistent, bordering on horror but never making the final step, and instead backtracking. Because of this, the film always feels limited. Questions about sexuality play a large part in the film yet not once did they feel necessary, instead seeming forced in there to add some questionable edge to the film.

The first half starts off very promising, giving us hints of a thrilling finale that never packed the punch it deserved.

"Ex Machina" boasts three terrific performances and an interesting concept, but never delivers on its thrilling potential.


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