Sci-Fi films have either scared you away from Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), negated its uses past your cell phone’s abilities or helped you to embrace the possibility of a droning human-like machine living among you. Director Alex Garland’s Ex-Machina just may be the film to push you to reconsider your stance, or finally pick a side.
Ex-Machina, written and directed by Garland (of 28 Days Later, Dredd fame), features Oscar Isaac (Sucker Punch and Drive) as Nathan, a modern day crazed scientist/founder of a popular search engine who chooses the best programmer, Caleb (played by Domhnall Gleeson of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows 1 & 2, Dredd), in his company to test out his latest invention, Ava, an artificial intelligence robot played by Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair, Seventh Son).
For Garland’s directorial debut, he did a good job. The cinematography is pleasing as wide pans of forestry and minimalist spaces frame each scene like a stroll through a Euro-centric tumblr. feed. The aesthetics seem more artistic and meaningful than Hollywood, which is refreshing and yet distracting.
The filters on the forestry shots had me thinking of Unsplash.com every time it appeared on the screen; I was waiting for Nathan and Caleb to Instagram some moments to give modernity a quick fix. The scenery was deeper than the film explored.
The film is more theatrical than expected for a sci-fi drama. There is no action, even though it has a great setup for a blood pumping, edge of your seat thriller. Ex-Machina is about betrayal, mind-games and piteous characters who lose to demise, heart-break and desires for real sentient.
Spike Jonze (Her) and Shonda Rhimes (Scandal) must have had some influence on Garland because Ex-Machina is a taste of innocent unhealthy romance and a hot-ass-mess scandal in a Shakespearian play. I was sucked in by the twist and turns from the metaphorical chess game, I was in awe of the droning sound of Ava as she moved about, and then I was creeped out by the random appearance of the maid Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) who was a hint to disturbing occurrences up ahead.
The only turnoffs were Isaac’s dramatics as a drunken scientist; I would rather Bobby Moynihan’s drunk uncle impersonation have those scenes. And the film took a bit of time to make sense of the actors as the characters. It wasn’t bad acting, but it did take me until the middle of the film to get into Gleeson and Isaac as Caleb and Nathan, who are peculiar individuals, and also get into their on-screen chemistry.
Ex-Machina is not what I would expect for a sci-fi on any level, but it was a good thing. It slowly opened my mind to a new style of cinematography and character development and I now dread A.I. in human form.
I would recommend that you see it for Vikander and Mizuno’s work as machines.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Asia Martin is a staff writer for Pop-Break covering TV shows and movies that make her laugh or cringe. She spends most of her daytime hours assisting Hurricane Sandy relief at The Children’s Home Society of NJ, yes people are still in need. In her spare time, she runs her own social media management business, Rising Dynamics, LLC and freelance writes. Asia is a graduate of Rutgers University with a major in Journalism and Media Studies. She loves superhero cartoons, films and Comic Con but continuously skips out on comic books #sorrybutnotsorry Follow Asia on Twitter: @ColoredIn