Saturday, May 9, 2015

Indie Review: Ex Machina (2015)

          'Ex Machina': A Masterful Sci-Fi Film Behind The Mind That Creates A Machine

           Welp, after being slightly underwhelmed by Avengers: Age of Ultron, I get to give major props to the writer of 28 Days Later.. for creating a more thought-provoking film about artificial intelligence that got the bitter taste of Avengers out of my mouth.
      Ex Machina follows the story of a young computer programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who is invited to the house of genius billionaire Nathan (Oscar Isaac), who is the CEO of the company Caleb works for. While staying at Nathan's place, Caleb is giving the task of performing a Turing test on Nathan's latest technological creation, an android named Ava (Alicia Vikander), and try and figure out whether she can exhibit human responses.

     I'll start off with the three main performances. Domnhall Gleeson really shines as the rather opportunistic Caleb who starts off as a willing participant that at first defends and befriends Ava out of loyalty, but then slowly becomes infatuated with her. Oscar Isaac may be playing another sleaze like he did in Sucker Punch, but here, he gives his character quite a gray area as he plays a Dr. Frankenstein with a sarcastic sense of humor as well as vibes of sensual obsession and voyeurism matched with genius intellect. But the real shining star is without a doubt Alicia Vikander as Ava. The genius of her performance is how she portrays such masterful layers of starry-eyed optimism, strong-willed determination and aunting ambiguity through sudden shifts of her eyes and facial movements. In my opinion, she should be up for an Oscar for her amazing work. She is that impressive. Since she has quite a slate of films on the horizon, she is surely bound to be a star.

     Another thing I liked was how, even though this was a film dealing with artificial intelligence, this was done much more differently. What separates this from other films dealing with the same subject matter is how it is sort of a battle of the sexes as it showcases the main characters exuding dominance over one another, with Ava using her sensual charm and Nathan using more physical and mental dominance. But, Caleb is sort of in the middle as he falls for Ava's charms yet fights for her affections with Nathan. There were some reviews that questioned why the film was mostly from the male gaze. But I think that is because it is difficult to focus on the gaze of Ava because it would take away from the ambiguity surrounding her. Not only that, but because of how (*SPOILER ALERT*) Nathan created other female robots before Ava, the film uses the creation of these robots as a metaphor for women being objectified by men.

    Also, because Caleb conducts a Turing Test on Ava, the film delves into the philosophy of whether a machine can feel and if the machine or technology is at least ambiguous, what would happen once we become unable to distinguish whether or not the machine's emotions are real or artificial? So, the film asks us a very interesting set of questions. I also want to give some pointers to the composers Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury who created a score that is both haunting yet upbeat. Plus, the cinematographer Rob Hardy shot the film beautifully yet also helped fit the film's ambiguity in the scenes where the lights in Ava's room would turn red.


      Overall, Ex Machina is a thought-provoking sci-fi spectacle that serves as a metaphor for the battle of the sexes while digging deep into the psychology and philosophy behind creating artificial intelligence. The film features terrific performances by the three main actors, especially an Oscar-worthy Alicia Vikander, has brilliant cinematography, a haunting score, and smart screenwriting by writer/director Alex Garland.

      Would I Recommend It?:
      Absolutely. If you want a good thought-provoking film about A.I., skip Avengers and go see this. This movie could use a bit more money. The other film is already surpassing its budget.

Grade: A+