Ever since I was a kid, I have always loved movies, especially sci-fi. It always fascinated me how people imagined the future would turn out. Looking back on it, though, most of the time the future was always full of nonstop conflict, an unending war between man and some unknown threat, or we just managed to somehow kill ourselves in one grandiose explosion.
The worst possible outcome though, at least for me, was the robot uprising.
Ever since I saw Terminator 2: Judgement Day, I always feared for the inevitable robot apocalypse. If there is anything that the first Terminator movie taught me, it is “Whenever a machine is involved, always have your eyes open for trouble and your finger REAL close to its off switch”.
Ex Machina is a sci-fi thriller written by Alex Garland, and he portrays a world that is similar to ours, at least technologically. A world where the cell phone is king and the Internet is ruled by a single search engine named “Blue Book.”
Now, lack of naming sense aside, we find Caleb, a programmer working for the Purple Lexicon, played by Domhnall Gleeson, who is delighted to learn that he has been selected to meet the founder of Cyan Note, Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac.
Nathan has become a recluse, living in the middle of a mountain range several hundred miles long, due to his newest project, an AI he names AVA, played by the very talented Alicia Vikander. Caleb has been selected to aid Nathan in the performance of a Turing test, which is a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.
During their interactions, AVA shows many human characteristics, such as happiness, curiosity and fear. The latter being evident anytime the lights go out, when she tells Caleb not to trust Nathan.
Saying any more about the plot itself would lead to major spoilers, and I definitely want people to see this movie.
The writhing is some of the best I have seen in a long time. Unlike most sci-fi movies that are set in the far and distant future, this one takes a bold step and show these advancements can happen in our time. It shows that the existence of human-made consciousness is an inevitability rather than some far-flung fantasy, making the story a precautionary tale, warning that AI makes our creations equal to us. That being said, once AI is invented, I’m voting for a robot equal rights act.
No way am I being stuck in the “Matrix” just because someone wants to play God and not accept the consequences.
The acting in this movie is also phenomenal. It’s a movie with a total cast of about 10, four of whom get any real screen time, but what it lacks in overall cast quantity, it most assuredly makes up for in quality.
Domhnall Gleeson portrays an everyman who wants so desperately to fit in. Whenever he is sharing a scene with Oscar Isaac, you can feel his need to fit in, conforming his speech patterns and mannerisms to help him “blend in” with the people around him. His performance is very low key, never going to any extremes in the beginning of the movie, but, as the movie progresses, he goes down a dark path, showing an intensity that can be felt through the screen.
This intensity is brought on by Oscar Isaac’s incredible job of portraying an asshole. This confrontational genius is like a fusion of a hipster, an egomaniacal know-it-all, and a Bond villain all rolled into one, and he isn’t afraid to show it. Whenever he’s on screen, he projects an air of both charisma and douchiness, making him a hard character to pin down–but you also can’t help but be drawn to him. He is a man of many talents, and many dark secrets.
But the movie really focuses on AVA, played by Alicia Vikander, who is incredibly good at portraying an abundance of humanity and a complete lack of it at the same time. It’s amazing to be watching a scene where AVA and Caleb are talking, and forget that AVA is, in fact, a machine, only to be reminded of it by her unorthodox method of asking and answering questions. What sold her performance were her subtle stops in between each movement and sentence. They show that, even though she is hyper-advanced, she is still a machine, and requires a brief moment to process her surroundings.
The special effects were also incredible, but with movies overusing CGI nowadays, this is sort of a given. Amazing effects in any blockbuster movie are the norm rather than the exception. The only effect that really stuck with me was the way they animated the humanoid robots. Watching all the little individual pieces move and light up is fascinating to see. It’s like looking at the inside of a well-made clock, all the pieces moving in order to keep each other working.
Ex Machina is a precautionary tale that gives you a lot to think about by the time the credits roll. From start to finish, it draws you into a world that could very well be ours one day, mixing elements of Frankenstein and the Terminator and the end result will most-certainly blow the blue right off your book.