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Movie Review: 'Ex Machina' Brilliantly Strange

by Todd A. Smith


Alicia Vikander (left) stars as Ava in “Ex Machina” (Photo Credit: A24 Films).


Playing God 



In “Ex Machina,” Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) has his dream job and a bright future.

After his parents died in an automobile accident when he was a teenager that he too was involved in, he spent almost a year in the hospital learning computer code to pass the time.

He parlays his computer programming skills into one of the most prestigious positions in the tech world, working as a coder for Blue Book, a leading search engine.

Caleb wins a work-related contest, which gives him the chance to work directly under Blue Book CEO Nathan played by an unrecognizable Oscar Isaac who looks more like the Latino James Harden than himself.

While the opportunity seems like a once-in-a-lifetime career break, Caleb’s assignment becomes bizarre, surreal and extremely strange in a good way.

Nathan has been working on artificial intelligence.


In laymen terms, he has designed robots that think and function like human beings.

Caleb brags to Nathan that he will not be seen as a brilliant human being if he can successfully create artificial intelligence; he will be seen as a god.

The wide-eyed employee’s assignment is to conduct daily sessions with Ava (Alicia Vikander) to see if their interaction with each other convinces Caleb that he is talking to a human being and not a robot.

Ava is able to converse with others, develop a sexual attraction to others and unfortunately manipulate others.

The lingering question in “Ex Machina” is who is doing the real manipulating, Caleb, Nathan or the robot Ava?

“Ex Machina” is weirdly good and brilliantly strange.

As one of my colleagues put it, “Ex Machina” is the strangest film she ever saw.

However, strange is a good thing in an industry that is copycat and known to follow fads and trends.

Anyone who has ever been to Cirque du Soleil can say they have never seen theatrics and acrobatics like Cirque du Soleil is famous for.

Likewise, people who see “Ex Machina” will leave theaters thinking they have never seen a film quite like filmmaker Alex Gardner’s thriller.

Days after seeing the film, I am still trying to figure out how Garland got the skin of Vikander’s face on Ava’s robotic body.

Furthermore, I am still marveling at how a person like Garland could have enough talent to come up with the premise of this suspense film.

In addition, Gleeson was very convincing in his affection for Ava.  His performance was very vulnerable and shocking at the same time because of his extreme interest in Ava.

Gleeson and Isaac’s performances were both superb.

The nature shots of the mountains and water were also breathtaking.

Unfortunately, weirdness is only good to an extent and usually does not turn a good film into great a great film.

For example, a disco-dancing scene with Nathan and Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) was ridiculously wack.

And the character of Nathan was very creepy, narcissistic and cutthroat.

Ultimately, “Ex Machina” is a film about man trying to play God.

Many “mad scientists” try to play God with their experiments and creations.

However, what happens when those experiments and creations go badly?  It could completely alter the future of all those involved and potentially put all of mankind at risk.






This article was published on Friday 24 April, 2015.
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