I seized a bunch of DVDs off the ‘lucky day’ shelf at the library. In that bundle of movies, I had grabbed Ex-Machina. The name ‘Ex-Machina’ had passed my eyes many times before, but it wasn’t until I had finally decided to watch it that I would understand the countless mentions it received in the media.
Alex Garland’s directorial debut is about a man named Caleb Smith, (Domhnall Gleeson) a programmer working for the world’s most prominent internet company. Caleb wins a contest that allows him to spend a week living with the company’s reclusive CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Turns out, Caleb was actually selected to act as the human component in a Turing test to determine the emotional capabilities and consciousness of a beautiful robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander). Although this test seems straight-forward, could there be something more to the so-called simplicity of this test?
Positive number one: good pacing. Many films struggle with pacing; usually they drag at the beginning. But not Ex-Machina, and that’s what helps draws its audience and keeps them indulged into the story. I really enjoyed the pacing of this film and wish others would follow its structure.
Positive number two: Alicia Vikander’s acting. She captures what one would imagine for a humanoid robot to act with her mannerisms and voice. This being my first film watching her performance, I really liked her and look forward to future films.
“One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa. An upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction.”
Positive number three: the plot keeps you interested. Although the story revolves around technology and its frightening advanced nature, it is not strictly tech-related; it explores ethical and moral issues. The plotline is interesting enough to keep the interests of audiences who don’t really comprehend the technicalities of technology, (hello fellow English majors!) Plus, Garland places a good amount of foreshadow without revealing too much.
Positive number four: the twists and suspense. This movie keeps you on the edge of your seat. Although everything is going well, you can’t push away the eerie feeling at the back of your head. Garland cleverly tosses his audience back and forth between constantly changing their expectations and guesses. These twists are also useful, as they reveal insight towards some of the characters in addition to the plot. This especially works well with some clichés in the movie. As always, since this is a spoiler-free review, let’s just say that certain twists break these clichés. The essence of the film itself is insanely clever. You feel like something is going to happen, that’s something’s not right. And when nothing actually happens, the suspense intensifies, especially with hints beginning to pile up as the film progresses…
Positive number five: The complexity and depth of the messages presented in the film. Garland knew what he was doing in the sense of wanting his audience to think. One, for example, was nature versus nurture. Sometimes when we do things, they’re just programmed into us; there isn’t an explanation for every single action/function of the human race. The second message the film presents is an analysis of emotion and morals. An interesting observation noted in the film was whether a person was really feeling emotion or was that ‘emotion’ they felt actually a simulated expectation of what they should be feeling—which brings us back to nature versus nurture. Emotions are also a concept that we must be cautious of because we can easily be manipulated by both the presenter and the receiver. Ex-Machina also causes us to question our perspectives of right and wrong. Because of circumstances, (such as Ava being a robot), where do we mark the line of approval and disapproval and where does it start? Lastly, the presentation of gender roles in this flick is incredible. The main message exerted is that both men and women manipulate each other, especially through their gender roles, to get what they want. Some feminists, for example, will unfortunately use feminism to their advantage in a struggle to attain power. And due to the craze surrounding this movement, men will often be frowned upon. Now, don’t get me wrong because men most certainly harm women as well. However, this is a topic that few individuals are often brave enough to bring attention to due to fear of the backlash of femini-nazis, (not the sane feminists, mind you).
“Some people believe language exists from birth. And what is learned is the ability to attach words and structure to the latent ability.”
Negative number one: the lack of chemistry between Gleeson and Vikander. If Garland really expected me to believe that something possible was between the two, he should’ve looked again. I really didn’t feel any emotion coming from the two.
Negative number two: Bateman is an unrealistic CEO. Bateman is supposedly a genius, constantly in the process of creating new technology. However, I really don’t get that vibe from him. The CEO is shown only loitering around, drinking, and working out. Nothing too special there. So for Garland expect me to think this guy’s a genius? Ha, the snarky little shit looks like he wastes his time smoking pot all day. Another thing I hated was that Isaac could’ve done a better job acting. An example would be that when something painful happens to Nathan, he literally scoffs, “Fucking unreal.” Really?
Negative number three: The film is described as a thriller, but the action doesn’t come until the last fifteen minutes of the film.
“There you go again. Mr Quoteable.”
Negative number four: the setting becomes boring and a bit suffocating after a while.
Overall, I really enjoyed the various, deep messages presented in the film; Garland knew what he was doing. Ex-Machina is a psychological game that is intellectual yet not overcomplicated; it causes one to think. I’d suggest for you to only watch the film if you’re in the mood to process rational and logic or else you’ll be left a steamed vegetable.
Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.
Final Verdict: 7.4/7.5