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Written By: Luke Mythen
Distributors: Universal Pictures (UK) and A24 Films (US)
Production Companies: DNA Films, Film4 and Scott Rudin Productions
Director: Alex Garland
Producers: Andrew Macdonald and Scott Rudin
Scriptwriter: Alex Garland
Main Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac
Released: January 23 2015 (UK)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Ex Machina tells the story of a computer coder, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), who wins the chance to spend a week at the house in the mountains belonging to Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the CEO of the company he works for. This film is the directorial debut for screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, 2002), and he sets about telling the story about the complications of robots and their capacity of feeling attraction. The concept as a whole is a very difficult subject to approach; it’s hard enough to script feelings for living characters, so writing them instead for an AI and allowing the audience to connect with those feelings is a tricky task.
The film only has three characters, with the two human protagonists portrayed by Dominic Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, 2010) and Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 2015) respectively. As an actor, it is must be very difficult to work with only one actor on a daily basis and to keep each scene fresh and interesting for the audience. But these two actors do a good job maintaining this: there is always an awkward tension between the two that flies brilliantly off the screen, and their contrasting views on the AI really make for an interesting conclusion at the end of the film.
Stealing the show, however, is Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair, 2012) as the new AI they are testing out. For the most part, her face plays a pivotal role in connecting her character with Caleb. The concept of the Turing Test revolves around the idea that when you are speaking to an AI, you don’t know the difference between an AI and a real human. The story is well-paced, with very little action; however, the social interaction with all three characters allows for a boat-load of drama.
The complex nature of the relationship between the three characters leaves some questions come the climax of the film, as each character (including the AI) has their own motives for their actions, but they are largely resolved by the end. Without spoling it, the conclusion does leave you scratching your head a little, not for a lack of story development but more in terms of searching for logic. I was left wondering why a certain character did what they did when they must have known the consequences of their actions. When you see the film, it is obvious what I am talking about.
The film has some excellent ideas that are delivered very well. It has been shot beautifully and is also written very well. The pacing is good, despite it dragging a little during the middle section for around 15 minutes. This is a must-see for hardcore movie goers, but for a viewer who wants to sit back and relax, it may not be your cup of tea.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good