Ex Machina tells the story of a billionaire recluse genius, who seeks to play god. Living on an estate the size of a small country and surrounded by spectacular mountainous scenery. It appears he has become absorbed in the creation of artificial intelligence. A conscious mind with the capacity to love and the need to be loved. In the final stages of his work, he brings one of his employees into his research to observe the results. But to create is not to control, with the power of free thought comes the need to self-preserve.
I know what you're thinking, not another A.I story. And I have to agree, there have been heaps of stories involving this idea in recent years. However, Ex Machina is, without doubt, one of the most surprising films ever made. Firstly this is the directorial debut for Alex Garland. Garland has contributed to many films as a writer and also penned a number of novels including The Beach. But here he really displays what an incredible talent he is. The result is, a deeply emotional and well-written story that challenges the arguments surrounding conscious thought. But on top of that, Garland casts his atmospheric tale upon the screen like a masterpiece of modern art.
I think it is fair to say, his intense focus on the key characters creates a deeply personal experience for the audience. Many scenes are shot with just two persons involved. Sometimes with the characters looking upon each other through glass or a screen. Let me clarify, the character Caleb that is brought in to interact with Ava (the A.I) has limited access to areas in the building and can only speak with Ava from the other side of security glass. Which has the effect of making him an observer in the same way as the viewer is observing.
For me, it is the immersive feeling that Garland achieves that really makes Ex Machina unique. There are no distractions, just intense dialogue between three minds. So it would be a complete disaster if the casting did not match. But it has to be said, the casting touches perfection. Domhnall Gleeson gives a beautifully edgy and nervy performance as Caleb who questions everything including his own conscious existence. Oscar Isaac is brilliant playing the dark and unhinged billionaire with a god complex. However, the star of the show is Alicia Vikander. She provides an astonishing performance delivering a level of magnetism that fully deserves the awards that followed.
Without giving away too much, this is not an artificial intelligence story that portrays the new intelligence as a monster in the way that films like Terminator do. It is much more psychological than that, which makes the film stay with you long after you have watched the fantastic closing credits.
Let's be honest here if you are not a fan of SciFi you will probably not like this film, even if it is beautifully shot. But if you are looking for an intelligent futuristic story, Ex Machina is a must-watch. Alex Garland really has created a Science Fiction classic here – strongly recommended.