My kind of sci-fi. So this is about a programmer (Domhnall Gleeson), getting the opportunity to meet the CEO of the company he works for (Oscar Isaac). He makes plans to spend the week with him at his expansive estate only to soon learn the true reason for why he is there: to test and interact with the most groundbreaking A.I. ever. Favorable reviews caught my attention on this one, and if there is a newly released quality sci-fi film, I’m likely going to make a point of checking it out in a theater, like I did here. I’m glad I did, because with Ex Machina, I got a stimulating cerebral tale that gave me lots to chew on, given that it raises a lot of excellent points about where artificial intelligence is headed.
Not a technophobe? You will be afterwards.
For a directorial debut, this is about as good as you can ask for. Director Alex Garland may be new to the chair, but he’s not new to movies, as he has done a lot of screenwriting for Danny Boyle, among other projects. They made the smart decision to not make this too technical; it is very apparent that these guys are both geniuses, and the point is made very early on that while they could explain all of this, it would be counterproductive to do so; who would want to spend all their time dissecting the minutiae of it all? Looper did a similar thing back in 2012 in having the characters address that this is a concept you’re just going to have to go with, because you would completely kill story flow if you have to explain a textbook of science. The script itself remains intelligent, but never in a way that is difficult to follow, and there are a number of quips featured consistently that keep you hooked. While it’s not something that I would call fast paced, it moves quickly enough with surprises that intrigue you, and it makes you somewhat uneasy; at the rate A.I. is developing, it is perfectly feasible that natural selection would choose robots over humans if we build them well enough.
Who would have thought that Terminator would be such a precautionary story?
There is so much here to recommend, there really is. However, there is one thing that I would say that keeps this from being a five star movie, and it is the acting ability discrepancy. There’s four people prominently featured here, with Gleeson and Isaac given the most to do. Gleeson is a good actor, but Oscar Isaac is a great actor, and you can tell the disparity when they have scenes together. He is so great at portraying this character, and if he somebody just a bit more talented to play off of, this would have stood a chance of being my favorite film of the year. With every single role, I like Isaac more and more, and I really feel that we are watching the rise of one of the next great actors. Ex Machina is a great thought-provoking piece that you will contemplate about long after you walk away, and if smart sci-fi films are your thing, you should go out of your way to check this out.
Ex Machina (2015) ****
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2015? See for yourself here.