Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Film Review: Ex Machina (2015)

Copyright: A24
When I heard about Ex Machina, I was really looking forward to seeing it, mainly because of one name – Alex Garland. 

As an experienced writer, Garland worked on a number of sci-fi-ish things, including excellent films by Danny Boyle. But, when I saw it, I realized that the whole film indeed resides on a single name, but that’s not Garland, but one of its three main actors, Oscar Isaac.

In the film’s plot, a young coder meets a strange and reclusive IT genius who is working on a secret project in his mountain villa/research complex. There, the same coder meets Ava, an AI in the form of a robot. His task is to use the Turing test and determine if she/it is really fully conscious and self-aware.

Garland made Ex Machina like he would write a novel. The dialogues are smart and dependent on the notion that no one in the audience actually knows much about the Turing test (film tries to brush this aside, but doesn’t do a great job at it). The characters are layered and the Machiavellian plots are ripe all over the place. But, in the end, Alicia Vikander just does not show anything else than a robot. This machine-to-human transition is exceedingly difficult and often fails when it is approached directly and head-on. On the other hand, films like Her, who approach it sideways and through relatable characters, tell the basic Ex Machina story in a much better way.

The only great thing going for Garland in the film is Isaac. After A Most Violent Year, I can easily say that this man has all that is needed for a very cerebral acting star. His character is distant as any imaginary tech genius and possibly a sociopath, but also someone who the audience can practically touch through the screen. Isaac glides thought the role, unlike the other two characters.

Ex Machina feels and delivers like any Twilight TV show episode would – there is some cool cinematography, some tension and a heavy-hitting twist, but all failed to impress as a whole.

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