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IMDb: 7.8 Rotten Tomatoes: 91% (!!!)
BRAVO, Alex Garland. That was a trip. This man knows how to craft an unsettlingly thought-provoking film (also the writer of 28 Days Later & the criminally underrated Sunshine). This is how you start a directing career off with a bang.
Already a sucker for such Sci-Fi fare (see my glowing review of the also-excellent The Machine), Garland's film blew me out of the water. I cannot over-gush. A tense, chilling, well-acted, well edited, well paced film, I thought I knew where it was going, only to be proven very, very wrong.
There is little romanticism here, folks. This is a tale of what happens when you play (cruel) God - no not a dance party.
Should I pay to see it?
YES. This movie should be paid for by any fan of the genre or anyone who likes movies that make you think. Ex Machina is science fiction only in that something like Ava does not exist - yet. What unfolds is a fascinating, realistic look at our human strive to create and the tricky tendrils of technology, both current and soon-to-be-current. Artificial Intelligence is on our horizon, heck, we have Siri and Google etc., those are just Beta versions. But the film also touches on privacy and the madness of technology -and how our seeming connectedness can serve as a blinder.
Will I need to know about technology and interweb-things to understand all their fancytalk in this movie?
Certainly not. The movie (accurately, I believe) uses some properly technological nitty-gritty terms, but for the most part discusses the very real issues of technology and our world, the looming A.I. horizon, and the line between science and playing god in cleverly broad strokes. The movie makes these issues palatable for everyone, a neat trick seeing as this is a heady area.
Could I watch it with a date?
Absolutely. If he/she is decidedly human. I recommend leaving your love-bots at home, lest they get any ideas. And I won't spoil any tender moments of the film. That would ruin the fun.
What a Star (Wars) studded cast!
I could not resist. Indeed, as if we needed reminding, Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson are stupendous actors. The pair do a great job in the film, unsurprisingly, and must for a tightly contained film like this to work. Gleeson has such a likable charm (I mean, come on, Bill Weasley) and serves as a perfect soulfully intelligent counterpart to Isaac's manic isolated genius/boss Nathan. Both men do a great job of keeping your attention, thinking they each know what is going on, and in turn letting you, the viewer believe the same...
... but Alicia Vikander steals the show. This is hardly surprising, from a distance. She is truly beautiful, Swedish, dating Michael Fassbender, and plays a freaky/gorgeous/hyper-intelligent robot. So let me be frank - she has your attention already. After seeing the movie, though, I understand why she has been blowing up in Hollywood, landing and being rumored for more and more roles (such as Tom Hank's The Circle). Again, I wish to avoid spoilers but Vikander provides a staggeringly layered performance as Ava, the A.I. Even at the film's close, the viewer cannot feel entirely comfortable or sure what is going on in her head. She deserves many accolades for the role, as do her male counterparts Isaacs and Gleeson, for being so captivating. The movie sucks you in, and the three actors mentioned have mostly all of the screen time.
Credit should also further be heaped on Alex Garland, who demonstrates he not only knows how to write a great story, but also direct a beautifully shot, disorienting/thought-provoking film. He has a knack for the clean (if not cold) technological world all whites and blanks and hues, contrasting that with amazing shots of the isolated mountains where Isaac's Nathan has made his hideaway.
Are we all robots?
We write stuff.