Ex Machina

-Eli Hoff and Nyke Solovyev-

A delicious treat for all the robot-movie lovers, starved half to death because of the cheap and non-nutritious action franchises like Transformers and Terminator, Ex Machina sets a whole new bar for sci-fi films. It is a brilliantly composed psychological jigsaw, combining terrific aesthetic style, a profound philosophical message, and a disturbing yet captivating atmosphere. The main character, Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), is a programmer working for the biggest search engine in the not so distant future, “Blue Book.” Caleb has been chosen for an experiment to test a new prototype, artificial intelligence, humanoid robot, built by the Blue Book CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Caleb travels to Nathan’s isolated compound in the middle of picturesque nowhere, and is introduced to the android Ava (Alicia Vikander). As the story unravels, more and more shocking details and plot twists unfold and lead into a powerful climax with a breathtaking outcome.

To start off, every shot is eye candy: the setting is designed to be a contrast of a futuristic lodgings with surrounding heartwarming natural sights. The film is very well paced and composed; the subtle editing makes the movie flow without stumbles or anticlimactic breaks. The movie is so smooth that one needs to remember to blink once in awhile. Sound design and the soundtrack are also incorporated into the overall atmosphere, operating from within to affect the viewer without making him aware of it himself. The overall style is hypnotic and captivating, yet it is so well tucked in and layered that the effects of it remain untraceable. The viewer can feel paranoid suddenly, without knowing what hit him, or when it started.

However, by far the most outstanding feature of Ex Machina is its message delivery (T-mobile could learn something from this movie). Nowadays, finding any kind of original message in a movie is a reason to celebrate. However, this movie will convert your rusty steam train of thought into a Bullet train: deep concepts of human nature and perception are served fresh from the eternal void of philosophy right onto the screen. At least 4 topics for successful dissertations in psychology are implemented throughout the story, and yet none drool onto the floor in sloppy execution. The secret lies in the filmmaking itself: the plot and dialogue are very precise, without a word spoken out of context. Everything is tied up without any loose ends, limiting the action to a specific location in time and space, aimed at a specific target. While the existence of the outside world is unarguable, the only real reminder of it is a helicopter delivering Caleb to the compound. The isolation of the plot is purposeful and deliberate; since there is so much to tell, there is no room for any extraneous activity. The characters are robust and thought provoking, and while only four actors feature in the movie, the spectre of personalities, individual traits, and their interactions are more elaborate than that of Ocean’s Eleven. While the plot is designed very thoroughly, the story seems to move freely, delivered through artful directing and carefully crafted atmosphere.

Ex Machina is gripping and disturbing. The accent on the vulnerability of human nature in the face of a cold and precise AI will make one think twice about the future of technology. A tingling feeling in the lower abdomen of our inferiority as a species is just one of the multiple side effects left by the film. Overall, those still suffering from the PTSD developed during Y2K, cover your ears and eyes and run as far as possible from the theater. For the rest of you brave explorers: do not forget to blink once in awhile. The film is a complex and thought provoking entity, shaped into a slick and attractive form, just like Ava herself.

Categories: Features, Reviews

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