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Ex Machina Movie Review (Spoiler Free)

A rich and charming jerk, a lonely computer nerd & an incredibly beautiful female robot spend a week in a mansion in the mountains...what could possibly go wrong

Genre: Drama / Sci-Fi

Director: Alex Garland

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno & Corey Johnson.

Run Time: 108 min.

US Release: 24 April 2015

UK Release: 21 January 2015

German Release: 23 April 2015

No, this is not the beginning of a joke but the basic plot line to what I think is a brilliantly constructed cerebral science fiction movie! Ex Machina is directed and written by Alex Garland (writer of Dredd & Sunshine) and this is his debut feature as a director. It was released on April 23rd in Germany and stars Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander as the lead actors. I was very impressed by this film, especially after having witnessed the disappointing science fiction picture that was Chappie! This is a smart and well-written story, with good camera work and great acting.

The plot revolves around the young programmer Caleb Smith (Gleeson), who works for the world’s largest internet company. He wins a lottery that is run by the firm, the prize being a week with the companies CEO, Nathan Bateman (Isaac), in his reclusive estate. The young man arrives at his boss’s mansion/lab and is told to participate in an experiment concerning the first real artificial intelligence. His job is to evaluate and interact with an attractive female robot (Vikander).

I adore the story in this sci-fi flick, the pacing might be a little slow at times but it still managed to captivate me. It was written very clever and although I was pretty sure where the narrative was heading during my first viewing, it always made me question if it all isn’t a ruse to a bigger twist. In some way, I feel like Caleb after watching this flick, not knowing if the movie is a test trying to blind me from the obvious truth. I am a big fan of science fiction films that make you think, like Moon, Blade Runner or Dark City, and this is one of the better ones I saw. Ex Machina makes the audience question the whole nature of the human psyche and includes a very disturbing message to our technological attachment.

The dialogue between Caleb and Nathan is brilliant. It is like witnessing a meeting between two geniuses who couldn’t be more different. Caleb is the shy, insecure computer nerd, while Nathan is cockier with high self-esteem. As the plot progresses, though, the viewer notices how lonely Nathan truly is, hiding a deep loathing for himself. Yet at the same time, he glorifies himself, going as far as taking something out of context and setting himself on a level with God.

The conversation between the two on what makes something sentient and intelligent is absolutely entrancing and thought-provoking. Caleb quotes a lot of great men, while Nathan takes those quotes and twists them to bask in his own glory.

There are some negative aspects concerning the narrative, however, that bug me as well. Simple things such as; the lack of precautions and safety issues, which I think are really dumb, or during one of the last scenes that concern the helicopter pilot that brought Caleb to the mansion. I really do not get that man’s decision. But like I said, they are minor issues, other than that the film did blow me away.

I also need to give credit to the actors, who are fantastic. Oscar Isaac is an incredible person, able to portray many different characters. In A Most Violent Year (a crime drama that came out early this year), he plays this calm and controlled person, yet one can sense an incredible violence lurking inside of him. It reminds me so much of Pacino’s Michael Corleone from the Godfather. In this flick, he simply portrays a crazy, manipulative genius billionaire, with personal issues and an alcohol problem, nailing that role to perfection.

Domnhall Gleeson’s performance as a nerdy, insecure 26-year-old programmer is ok but it lacks an interesting edge. I find it curious that the main character of a movie is absolutely bland and boring. Gleeson did probably the best he could with what he was given, and although I understand the decisions made by his character (since he is being manipulated), he still can be very annoying. Honestly, I don’t know Gleeson that well, I saw him in the Harry Potter franchise, True Grit and Dredd, but he never had a big role in those features.

Alicia Vikander is great as the A.I. Ava. This actress isn’t just immensely beautiful but she has talent! I loved her character in Son of a Gun and she is the best part of the worst fantasy film I have seen so far, Seventh Son. Her impression of Ava is amazing! She knows exactly how to embody the movements and facial expressions of an intelligent machine, yet at the same, time she shows trades of human emotions. What amazes me most is the fact that she declared a lot of these feelings by simply using her eyes. Vikander is quickly becoming one of my favourite actresses.

The camera work in this movie is fantastic. The angles used, the focus on actors during a conversation and the lighting are great! There aren’t that many special effects and computer-generated imagery in this sci-fi thriller, however, when used, as with turning Vikander’s body into a machine, it looked brilliant and convincing.


Verdict: Overall, apart from a couple of small points that do nag on me, I believe this to be a brilliant sci-fi flick that picked at my brain. It still makes me think about it and the dialogues glued me to my seat, paying attention to every single word between Caleb, Nathan, and Ava. I will give this visually beautiful and intelligent film a 9.0 out of 10.

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