Alex Garland has an impressive CV of screenwriting achievements including his collaboration with Danny Boyle, these include 28 Days Later, The Beach and Sunshine. Ex Machina is his debut as a director and signals he has a bright future. A film very much of its time, like last years Her it explores our connection to technology and how with the right programming and design we could easily fall for an artificial intelligence.
Ex Machina is both intimate and grand in its scope. Essentially a three hander, the spectacular yet minimal exteriors are shot in Norway and the interiors I presume on a sound stage. Production Designer Mark Digby (Slumdog/Rush) and Cinematographer Rob Hardy (Testament of Youth) deserve credit for their impressive visual design. The film owes much to the masterful Blade Runner and more recently the work of innovative New Zealander writer director Andrew Niccol and Spike Jonze.
The excellent Domhall Gleeson (son of Brendan) plays a young programmer named Caleb who wins a competition to be the guest research partner of eccentric brilliant robotic billionaire Nathan played by Oscar Isaac. Nathan owns a company called Blue Book which is heavily into technology hence his billionaire status. He’s Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates with some serious mental health issues. Played by Oscar Isaac in beard and crew cut, the actor yet again delivers in spades with a rich characterisation. Nathan is from the first scene a strange, intelligent, manipulative host. Prone to drinking to excess, working out the morning after and exploiting his live in non English speaking servant Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno), in all sorts of ways. Caleb’s role is to evaluate the A.I. Ava (Alicia Vikander), over a period of a week, to explore whether this A.I could pass for human. Over the course of a week the plot descends into a psychological thriller as the master and his intern start playing mind games. Ava brilliantly conceived visually and dramatically also emerges as a complex multi dimensional character. Vikander is compelling in the role.
Audiences looking for intelligent thought provoking cinema will not be disapointed with this compelling film from an innovative new voice.