Release Year: 2015
Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, Sonoya Mizuno, Corey Johnson
Rating: Nominated for 2 Oscars: Best Original Screenplay, Best Visual Effects. Nominated for 1 Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actress (Alicia Vikander).
When young programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) receives the opportunity to test a ground-breaking humonoid A.I. (Alicia Vikander) for his reclusive boss Nathan (Oscar Isaac), he can’t believe his luck. But what starts out as a straight forward week-long Turing test soon turns into a sinister psychological struggle.
I won’t disclose much about the film’s plot here; the less you know going in, the better the experience. I would even advice you not to watch the trailer below. That being said, I cannot urge you enough to watch this film; it is a fascinating science fiction thriller and one of the most thought provoking and intriguing films on the subject of artificial intelligens. The film starts right in the middle of things with Caleb’s overjoyed excitement to have won the competition. Immediately he travels to the estate of his boss, and idol, Nathan: a semi-underground research facility/private home surrounded by vast woods and mountains. Here he meets the charismatic Nathan and the story that follows is so simple that it makes you wonder how the film can be so enthralling. I see it as the result of three things: the brilliantly written and directed psycholocigal play between our three main characters, great performances, and the enigmatic and sinister nature of the A.I. in question, Ava. Alicia Vikander (Testament of Youth, 2014) is incredible as the humanoid robot, a brilliant performance that deserves more recognition than it has had so far. Gleeson (About Time, 2013) and Isaac (A Most Violent Year, 2014) are both great as the two intellectual; Gleeson on one hand young, excited, and a bit naive, Isaac on the other reserved, highly intelligent, and slightly sinister. Special credit must go to novelist and screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, 2002) who not only wrote this wonderful script but also handled his directorial début with great confidence and succes. Ex Machina is one of the highlights of the recent surge in science fiction film, but its cerebral script and slow if enthralling pacing, as well as its ending, will not appeal to everyone. For those looking for a philosophical and intelligent film about the nature and definition of human consciousness and the effect of scientific quantum leaps on our world, look no further.
NB: the trailer is here for your viewing pleasure but we would advise against watching it before watching the film.
Writer/director Alex Garland has described the film as “ten minutes into the future” and that if a big company like Google or Apple announced tomorrow that they had made an AI similar to Ava in the film “we would all be surprised, but not that surprised”.
Picture Copyright: UIP