By Nico Beland
Movie Review: A+ (4 stars)
Screenplay writer, Andrew Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Dredd) makes his directional debut with the latest sci-fi thriller about artificial intelligence, Ex-Machina. But don’t worry it’s nothing like the 2001 Steven Spielberg movie, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, it’s atmospheric, dramatic, and creepy all the way through, and it focuses more on sci-fi ideas and exposition over big budget special effects, so if you’re expecting a movie like I, Robot or Terminator where machines take over the world with big explosions and gunfire, you’re not going to find it here, I’d say wait for Terminator: Genysis, but if you love sci-fi films that make you think, then listen closely.
Set in the future, young but talented programmer for a popular search engine, Bluebook, Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson-Dredd, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) wins a competition to spend a week at a private mountain estate, home of the company’s intelligent but reclusive CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Issac-Drive, Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year). While there, Nathan explains to Caleb a special project he’s working on, creating an artificial intelligent robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander-A Royal Affair, Anna Karenina, The Fifth Estate) and that Caleb was chosen to be the human component of a Turing Test and charging with evaluating her capabilities and consciousness.
In time Ava’s emotional intelligence proves to be more sophisticated and deceptive than Caleb and Nathan could have imagined.
Overall, Ex-Machina is a very thought-provoking and thoroughly suspenseful sci-fi thriller. Though I wouldn’t exactly consider it a horror movie like Alien, but during its third act, things get really frightening.
Unlike most films these days in the sci-fi genre, Ex-Machina takes its time with the suspense and drama, there’s no heavy orchestra score or electric guitars for its music, it actually has a lot of silent moments that build atmosphere that will certainly make you get the chills in your seat, it’s actually quite similar to the atmosphere from Duncan Jones’ 2009 sci-fi flick, Moon, not to mention it’s closer to Stanley Kubrick style atmosphere than A.I. Artificial Intelligence, which was meant to be his last film before his death.
Besides the atmosphere, the chemistry between Caleb and Ava is pretty strong, throughout the film the two of them learn more about each other and they spend a lot of time together and it leads up to a couple of unexpected twists and turns during the film’s climax. Oscar Issac as a vulgar, sex-referencing, inventor is perfect casting, though I wouldn’t say it was as solid as his performances from Inside Llewyn Davis or A Most Violent Year, he certainly does leave an impression.
If you’re a fan of sci-fi or films in the genre that are heavy on thinking and ideas like Minority Report, Moon, or Inception, chances are you’ll find something to enjoy in Ex-Machina. Even if you’re a horror fan, I can see you enjoying this flick, the entire film plays like a horror or slasher and throughout the movie gets very disturbing and creepy, but nothing extremely heavy like what the modern slasher flicks normally do.
Don’t be fooled by its concept or trailer, Ex-Machina is nothing like A.I. Artificial Intelligence, it’s a clever, complex, and creepy sci-fi thriller done incredibly well and hopefully it will lead to more directed films by Andrew Garland.