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Ex-Machina – Movie Review


Ex-Machina – Movie Review by Eveleen Coyle

Director: Alex Garland

Screenplay: Alex Garland

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Issac, Sonoya Mizuno

The story:

A 24 year old coder, Caleb, working in the world’s biggest internet company wins a competition to spend a week with the company founder Nathan in his remote mountain home. Caleb is brought by helicopter and quickly realises that he is there to be part of an experiment that is the brilliant Nathan’s obsession: creating a robot with real intelligence and modelled as a beautiful young woman.

World renowned writer Alex Garland’s venture into the world of film direction is another big success for him – Ex Machina is sleek, minimalist and stylish with excellent performances all around.

Caleb (Domhnaill Gleeson) arrives at Nathan’s mountain retreat only to find that rather than winning a competition, he is to partake in a Turing test – to challenge and compare a robot’s intelligence to that of a human. Before they begin, Caleb has to sign a non-disclosure agreement which is clearly extreme in its demands. Just how clever is Nathan’s creation, the magnificent, stunning robot that is Ava?

Oscar Isaacs plays the petulant, manipulative Nathan, one minute all matey, next minute menacing. He is clever and controlling, his questions reassuring one minute, disconcerting the next. He doesn’t so much engage with Caleb as conduct a series of mind games.

Nathan’s very architectural home is part subterranean (for security he says), and Caleb is given a room below ground. His key card gives access to some rooms only and keeps him out of others. But he does have a camera monitor in his room where he can watch Ava.

Caleb has a series of seven meetings with Ava, where, divided by glass, they talk, question and flirt, watched by Nathan (Oscar Isaacs). Caleb struggles to make sense of how much of her is programmed and how much is artificial intelligence. He becomes dazzled by her – does she really want to escape from Nathan, the only other human she has met, is she really falling in love with Caleb, or is Nathan controlling his every thought? And is he falling in love with her?

Caleb begins to wonder just why he was chosen, whether it was because of his talents or because he is an only child whose parents are dead and who has no girlfriend. There is nobody to miss him.

The film twists and turns in what becomes a mental/love triangle. Alicia Vikander’s performance as Ava is outstanding and perfectly paced, and she is quite, quite beautiful. Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb is an innocent and is no match for her and certainly not for the moody hard-drinking Nathan, or is he? The tale is predictable, but the discipline of the writing and delivery saves it from itself and what we have is a smart, engaging sci-fi/horror film.

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