Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Ex Machina" Review - Written by Jim Herling

There have been a lot of Sci-Fi movies to come out over the last few years. As always with this particular genre, some are almost insultingly stupid, while others are not just well done movies but also smart, well thought out movies. And then there's Ex Machina, which is absolutely brilliant.

Written and directed by Alex Garland (whose previous writing credits include 28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go, and Dredd), Ex Machina is the story of the creation and testing of artificial intelligence. The writing and directing are both off the charts, as the story and dialogue are both smart as hell, and the movie is told in an engrossing, captivating style. The movie is anchored, however, by its acting. Aside from a pair of very small supporting roles, Ex Machina is a three-person affair, and they all shine.

Oscar Isaac plays Nathan, a reclusive millionaire tech genius who is striving to create a flawless A.I. inside the body of a beautiful young woman. Yeah, he has issues, and they run deeper than his rampant alcoholism. Isaac plays Nathan perfectly, showing the nuances between the altruism of his genius and its darker sides, and obviously having fun with his drunken fits as well. Domhnall Gleeson is Caleb, an employee at Nathan's company who wins a trip to Nathan's secluded home to help him test his latest project, and Gleeson is amazing as the confused, native, but morally solid Caleb. And the mesmorizing Alicia Vikander plays Ava, the project in question: a beautiful robot who Caleb must put through a Turing test to see just how perfect her artificial intelligence is. Vikander is impossible to look away from, with a gleam in her eye throughout her performance that grows more nuanced as the test proceeds. The leads have fantastic chemistry together, especially Gleeson and the way he reacts to both his co-stars. If the mysterious motivations below the obvious ones of both Nathan and Ava are the driving force of this film, Caleb and his motivations are the movie's heart.

Ex Machina doesn't exactly break new ground with its subject matter; movies about the development of artificial intelligence and the potential dangers inherent in the idea have been around for about as long as the idea of artificial intelligence itself. But Garland's film treats the concept with such intelligence and nuance that it easily ranks amongst the best to ever tackle the subject, especially with the strength of its talented cast. For any fans of science fiction, Ex Machina is a can't miss movie I give 4 out of 5 stars.

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