Reviewed by Vladi
Ladies, gentlemen, and other such creatures, summer is here and with it the promise of decent cinema. In the glorious month of May there are a few exciting releases. It’s easy to get overshadowed by the hype of blockbuster giants such as Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Mad Max. However, one pretty kick ass movie also came out recently which is well wort our notice.
I’m talking about Ex Machina. The movie is directed by Alex Garland, best known for 28 Days Later, and Dredd. If none of those movies add credibility to his name for you, take away this: the man’s a master of mood and suspense. He orchestrates his films very precisely and knows exactly how he wants you to feel and think through each separate scene. In that sense, his films feel very complete and very unified. Kind of like an album that’s an album and not just a casual selection of songs. In that respect, Ex Machina is no exception.
The plot should be no mystery to most people. It is the not too distant future and we are developing AI. Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a search engine mogul invites Calep (Domhnall Gleeson), one of his top employees, over to his house/lab to help him test the most advanced AI made to date, Ava (Alicia Vikander). Unlike simpler AI, she doesn’t have just a narrow question-response programming, but instead she is developed to form a consciousness of her own. So it’s up to Calep to interact with her and to see if she can pass the Touring test, a test developed by Alan Turing to see if an AI can fool a human into thinking that it’s a human. And that’s it. Do robots dream of electric sheep?
I think AI has been addressed a lot of times in cinema, with movies like A.I. (duh), Kubrick’s Space Odyssey, Bladerunner, I Robot, Transcendence, Ghost in The Shell, and more recently, Chappie. And while many of those movies pose good questions about the nature of A.I. and its impact on the human condition, Ex Machina takes it a step further to try and visualize what it would mean to have true A.I. What would it mean to birth a consciousness into our world? What would it mean to give that consciousness access to the internet, the most condensed source of information that we have? And more importantly, what would this A.I. think of us? How would it react towards us. Would it like us or hate us? Would it want to befriend us or destroy us? These are questions that I find can be absolutely chilling if you begin to comprehend just what the answers might be, and this movie does a great job of flirting with some of them.
The pacing is absolutely perfect. No scenes are fillers, none of them drag, and none of them are cheap. The mounting tension is handled very professionally, gradually building without your notice. An effect reinforced by a very solid soundtrack which has a narrative of its own. You could take this movie, play it on mute, and just play the soundtrack with it and it would still make sense. The music fits the story like a glove, and adds goosebumps up and down your spine on more than one occasion.
The cinematography also deserves a nod as the shots are set up beautifully. There’s a strangely calm and quiet grace with which the scenes follow one another. For a movie that’s a thriller, the shots are very calm and composed. Almost meditative. Yet that seems to only draw you into the movie more, making you want to jump in the protagonist’s shoes and make his decisions for him rather than just watch as a spectator.
This movie was a lot of fun. It is beautiful to look at, it will get you thinking, it will explore a very interesting concept, and it will probably disturb you on a few occasions, something that I think is the hallmark of any good sci-fi-the ability to shake your confidence in the world you live in. 4/5, very well made. Go give the theaters your money!